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Posts Tagged ‘stinging nettles

Stinging Nettles: Yes, You Can Eat Them

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These vivid green common nettles are easy to spot, with their two oppositional leaves.

What a difference it makes to actually forage for nettles at the start of the season, as opposed to last spring when they were starting to undesirably go to seed. Foraging with Chef Intaba by the river in Willamette Park last Saturday, I was also much more confident in identifying the green stalks and didn’t confuse them with young blackberry leaves. I also came prepared with my tough purple kitchen gloves and thick rubber boots, the better to wade into the brambles. We snapped off just the young top nettle leaves, so hopefully they will replenish themselves over the next month. The picked raw leaves, which when blanched or steamed are like a sweet, more fibrous spinach, smelled like chlorophyll-laden green pepper in my bag. And when you steam them up, you can drink the remaining detoxifying green-black tea, supposedly good for your complexion and urinary tract. It’s vegetal and slightly sweet.

A good nettle patch: the green really stands out against the backdrop of brown leaves.

With the blanched, chopped leaves, I made a quinoa and bulgur greek salad and a spanikopita-like lasagna, with feta, ricotta, chopped nettle and dill for the filling. See other nettle recipe suggestions here and on Culinate here. I hear they make a good soup, with potatoes. Deborah Madison has a recipe that looks nice. But I think I’ll only get the urge to forage for nettles about once a season. I still prefer domestically-cultivated greens, such as kale and spinach. But foraging is a lot easier, and in some ways more rewarding, than gardening. Here’s to next year, Intaba!

Master forager Chef Intaba picked bagfuls.

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Written by baltimoregon

February 24, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Finally Foraged for Stinging Nettles

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Stinging Nettles (not to be confused with wild blackberry leaves) from Willamette Park

Stinging Nettles (not to be confused with wild blackberry leaves) from Willamette Park

Spaghetti carbonara with nettles

Spaghetti carbonara with nettles

Who would have thought that something potentially harmful would be edible? Yes, stinging nettles sting, like mild poison ivy, but when cooked, they have an herbacous, spinach-like taste and consistency. Spinach has a sweeter and more complex flavor, but when Mother Nature offers up such bounty for free, I’m always up for trying it. Foraging rules! Just don’t pick them when they’re going to seed, as I almost did today.

Also, don’t mistake them for wild blackberry vines. It’s easy to do. At least that’s not a lethal mistake. Chef Intaba pointed the nettles out to me in Willamette Park this afternoon. They have two opposition leaves (rather than the blackberry’s three and look very similar to lemon balm.

We cooked the soaked nettles into our spaghetti carbonara, made with house-cured bacon from a half a pig Intaba just butchered herself. Instead of parmesan, we dusted the pasta with the sharp aged and local Willamette Valley Cheese Co. Brindisi. We topped our salad with Intaba’s house-smoked pecans and frizzled leeks and edible pansies, redolent of wintergreen, that I didn’t even realize I had in my garden.

Intaba's bacon

Intaba's bacon

Pansy salad

Pansy salad

The meal provided nice closure to a Memorial Day of wine-tasting at Chateau Lorane just south of Eugene. The Willamette Valley’s big wine tasting weekends center around Memorial Day and Thanksgiving. I really fell for Lorrane’s Baco Noir, more rich than any pinot I’ve had. All the other wines seemed like water next to this voluptuous Baco, which painted the glass with deep purple. I only know the difference between good and bad with wine. But with this one, I could sense there was something special going on.

And be sure to stop at Our Daily Bread bakery and restaurant in Fern Ridge on Highway 99W between Corvallis and Eugene.They make a mean marionberry scone.

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Written by baltimoregon

May 26, 2009 at 1:04 am

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