I used to get free tickets to festivals to go and talk about Nettles – a wonder plant that never gets the rave press it deserves because it doesn’t come from the Amazon. It is also from the same family as marijuana – although it won’t make you boring if you eat lots of it.
With food scarcity, and fresh fruit and veg becoming harder to find and expensive, now is the best time to go out and harvest as in the next few weeks it will seed and won’t taste as nice.
Well, to tell you the truth the taste is not for everyone but you can hide it in sauces. You can whizz it up and add it to curries as you would with spinach. My kids have been eating it for years in their spag bol, but don’t tell them. You can also use it to make nettle tea, soup, pesto and risotto.
The Germans used it to make clothes during the Second World War, you can make shampoo from it and rope, its makes a great liquid feed to perk up plants and it is a foodplant for our insects and butterflies. You can even make a kid’s nettle beer.
Stinging nettles are packed full of goodness. Rich in iron, potassium, magnesium and calcium, along with vitamins A,B, C and K, they are also high in fibre.
Yes they will sting if you touch them but even the stings are good for arthritis, so its a medicine as well and said to be good for lowering blood pressure, improving circulation and respiratory conditions.
So, get a pair of gloves, some scissors and a bag and off you go. I would avoid nettles growing near roads and by lamp-posts unless you like exhaust fume or dog wee flavour (surprised there not Real Ales with those names).
Cut just the tops and avoid ones that aren’t a dark green colour or are flowering – although if you cut them down they will give fresh growth to harvest in a month or so.
Rinse, then boil in a small amount of water as you would spinach for a few minutes. The sting will disappear and you can then whizz up in blender to turn into a puree. Easy to freeze, easy to add to meals.
If you’re going to forage, then it’s got to be nettles. They are free, plentiful and will keep coming back.
As everyone will think you’re weird it’s also the perfect social distancing sport whilst getting some fresh air.
- Pick a big bunch of soft nettle tops (approximately 50g per person). Wash, then blanch in boiling water, once cooled, squeeze out excess water and chop finely.
- Sweat off a large onion, or leek in a mixture of butter and olive oil till softened.
- Make up a vegetable stock and keep hot in the pan . You could add some of the cooking water from the nettles to this .
- Add risotto rice to pan with onions and coat with the butter and oil mixture. Gradually add hot stock until nearly all absorbed by rice , add your chopped nettles and if possible some wild garlic. If no wild garlic, add a clove of garlic when frying onions. Keep stirring the rice until you get a creamy consistency. Add a knob of butter and parmesan cheese at the end. The rice should still have a bit of a bite to it.