Believe it or not, we have the cold and damp of winter to thank for many of the items we cherish in the spring. Among them are stinging nettles. Stinging nettles are herbaceous plants that are nutrient rich and known for being highly anti-inflammatory. Understandably, many are put off by the “stinging” aspect of nettles but don’t let that stop you from trying them. They are incredibly versatile – all you need are a good pair of gloves when handling them.
Most people first encounter nettles in dried form, usually in a tea. This is the simplest way to “prepare” them – bundle then and hang them upside down in a dry, dark place until dry. Once dry, use those handy gloves to strip the dried leaves from the stem. When ready, pour boiling water over the leaves and steep to your liking. The longer the steep, the stronger the flavor and nutrient benefits. If you don’t want to bother with drying them yourself, you can pick up dry nettles from Birchwood Botanicals.
Our favorite way to use nettles is in a pesto. This does require blanching your nettles in a pot of boiling water for 1 minute before draining and proceeding with your favorite pesto recipe. We’ve included basic instructions below, but be sure to experiment with adding other herbs, greens, hard cheeses, or nuts.
Several of our farmers are offering nettles this time of year. Stop by the Information Booth for a list of farmers if you have trouble spotting them in the Market. As always, be sure to ask your favorite farmer how they use the ingredients they grow!
BASIC NETTLE RECIPE
- Boil a bunch of fresh nettles for one minute.
- Strain well and squeeze out the water. At this point, they are no longer “stinging.”
- Put nettles in a blender or food processor with garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, sea salt, lemon juice, and grated cheese (traditionally parmesan or romano).
- Blend until smooth and creamy. Salt to taste.