We hope you will enjoy to use (and maybe discover!) this very nutritious herb, that we only find sometimes on farmer markets...or in your backyard, in early spring! My family and I used to harvest some nettles every spring in Belgium to make soup. I was delighted to find this North European gem here in Santa Barbara!
Culinary use: The stinging nettle has a flavor similar to spinach mixed with cucumber when cooked, and is rich in vitamins A and C, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium. Young plants were harvested by Native Americans and used as a cooked plant in spring when other food plants were scarce. Soaking stinging nettles in water or cooking removes the stinging chemicals from the plant, which allows them to be handled and eaten without injury. After the stinging nettle enters its flowering and seed-setting stages, the leaves develop gritty particles called cystoliths, which can irritate the urinary tract. In its peak season, nettle contains up to 25% protein, dry weight, which is high for a leafy green vegetable. The leaves are also dried and may then be used to make a herbal tea, as can also be done with the nettle's flowers.
My own recipe for a dense, delicious nettle soup (for 4 bowls):
1/2 lb of stinging nettles, rinsed and chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 medium garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 lb of peeled and diced potatoes (russet or golden)
2 tablespoons of tamari sauce (or regular soy sauce)
3 tablespoons of heavy cream
pepper to taste
!! Please, use gloved to avoid the stinging effect of the nettles!
1. Bring a pot with 4 cups of water to a boil with 1 teaspoon of salt. Drop in the diced potatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Add the stinging nettles, and cook 1 to 2 minutes until they soften.
2. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat, and stir in the onion. Cook until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes.
3. Place the pot mixture in a blender with the onion, the chopped garlic, the heavy cream and add some pepper to taste. Blend for 30 seconds and serve.