As we head towards spring there is plenty of nettle for the taking. In more temperate climates nettle is pretty much year round. If you are unfamiliar with nettle, a brush with it will acquaint you quickly.
Stinging nettle is everywhere in the Northwest. I am always careful when hiking and so you should be when harvesting. Where long sleeves and pants with a good pair of gloves. Always harvest before the flower balls form. Use leaves towards the top as they will be more tender. Using a sharp knife cut the top 10 inches of the plant off and place in a bowl or basket.
Once back with your spoils, invert the stem and run your GLOVED hand down the shaft of the stem to quickly remove the leaves into the colander you will use to rinse them. You will need 4 cups for this recipe. If you have more than you need, throw them to your chickens or dry for tea.
Why eat nettles you ask? Nettles are high in vitamin C and calcium. It is high in vitamin K, but since vitamin K is manufactured in the lower intestine and very little is absorbed through foods or supplements I don’t eat it for its vitamin K content. It’s a great blood cleanser. You can just steam it like chard, add to stir-frys or use it in soups. When steaming it’s great with your favorite flavor of balsamic vinegar.
4 cups nettle leaves
2 T minced or grated onion or shallot
2 T butter or oil
2 T flour (1 if using tapioca flour)
2 c chicken or vegetable stock
2 c milk (almond, oat or soy works)
salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan if you like
Rinse the nettle leaves. Throw them in a pan using a spoon or tongs. Once they are cooked they won’t sting you., Steam until soft using just the water on the leaves. Puree in a blender.
In a medium sauce pan heat your butter. Add onion/shallot and saute until soft. Add your flour and cook in the butter stirring constantly to create a roux. (this cooks the flour so that it doesn’t taste chalky). Add your stock and nettle puree, then heat until boiling.Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 10 minutes. Add your milk and gently combine. cook for another 5 minutes. Serve with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan.