So now you’ve gone out and foraged some stinging nettles, and you know how to handle them comfortably. How do you cook them? Easiest place to start is making tea. Nettles tea is very healthy and will give you a good opportunity to see what nettles taste like. I thought it might taste kind of “green” but it’s got a sweet note that makes it very pleasant. The color is simply spectacular.
Beyond tea, you can use nettles much as you would use spinach. I like to mix them with other ingredients, because the cooked flavor is sometimes a little bland. Nettles go really well with pasta. Nettles pesto, nettles and cheese in a ravioli filling, or nettles in the pasta itself (like spinach pasta) are all wonderful flavors. Sauteed nettles also work well in frittatas or omelettes, or mixed with mushrooms or other vegetables as a side dish. They mix well with cheeses, such as ricotta, mascarpone, or feta.
Since nettles can only be picked for a short time during the year, it’s fortunate that they also freeze and dry well. They should be blanched first before freezing. To do that, get a big pot of water boiling and fill a large bowl with ice water. Put the raw nettles into the boiling water for about a minute, and then plunge them into the ice water to stop the cooking. When thoroughly chilled, put the nettles into a colander to drain and press them to squeeze out more water. You could wring them out in a towel to really squeeze them dry. Then put them into freezer bags or containers and then into the freezer. Like spinach, nettles shrink down when cooked, so be sure you have plenty.
To dry nettles, either use a dehydrator, or put clean raw leaves onto cookie sheets in an oven with the heat set to the lowest setting (usually “warm”), about 140-150 degrees F. Two to three hours should be long enough. The drying removes nearly all the sting, but I put them into a bag to crush the dried leaves. I’ll always use the dried nettles in tea or cooked dishes, so any remaining sting will be neutralized completely.
There’s something very satisfying about bringing home some fresh leaves, and enjoying their health benefits and delicious flavor for months.
- 1 cup water
- 2 Tbsp fresh or 1 Tbsp dry stinging nettles leaves (Sumas River Farm, Sumas)
- ½ tsp honey (optional)
- Bring water to a full rolling boil.
- Put nettles into a cup and pour the boiling water over them. Use a spoon, if necessary, to hold the nettles under the water.
- Let the tea steep for at least 10 full minutes to be certain the sting will be neutralized. Add honey, if desired.
Serve hot or cold. Add a little mint to the tea if you don’t like the flavor of nettles alone.
Bellingham Farmers Market, Railroad at Chestnut, Bellingham