Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Tuesday night nettles

With a hat tip to the gang at Dust My Broom, I'm doing some plagiarizing here and sharing one of my fave spring rituals. Which is, the harvesting and consumption of Urtica dioica or what we all know as stinging nettles. Yesterday evening I raided the patch I have been cultivating the past few years (they aren't as prolific here in AB as they were in the Fraser Valley) and had my first delicious feed.

I am still surprised that most people up here have never eaten this succulent wild delicacy. I get dumbfounded stares of amusement when I tell my co workers how good these little stinging demon plants taste. So here you go:

Pick these little beauties when they are a few inches tall, use shears or scissors and a glove. You can hang on the to leaves carefully but there is still a mild sting so beware. If they are taller than 6" just clip the top 4-5" off (and some the large leaves if you like). They'll grow like grass once decapitated so you can keep harvesting the same patch.

Fill a large bowl or paper bag and give them a good rinse, I prefer to fill the sink 1/2 full of cold water, swril them around some and let them sit awhile. One thing about the alberta nettles is that they are slower growing therefore you have a longer harvesting window (once they go to seed it's too late) but the later it is the more likely little green worms will reside on them, which is no problem, just rinse them off. Once rinsed put them in a pot of boiling water about 1/2 full and let steep for a few minutes. You can put an oxo cube in with them if you like but I prefer them straight up. Pull the cooked nettles out with a fork or some tongs and serve hot and steaming, top with butter, salt and/or pepper, a splash of vinegar (or all 3) and prepare to enjoy the one of the tastiest and nutritional (very high in protein and vitamin A) wild veggies there is! Also, keep the water and enjoy as a hot strong tea or drink it cold.

As an added bonus, some say that they'll put more sting in your stinger!



Anonymous WL Mackenzie Redux said...

I always used to chop these out of any camp site I used as either the kids or the dogs wouls end up dosed with them and we would have to listen to moaning and soothing rashes all week end...I knew my survival book said they were edible but I never could figure how evenb boiled, stuff that did this to your outsides would be good for your insides ;-)

I like fidddle heads and morels and wild leeks but I never tried nettles...I'll give them a go but for the life of me I can't think of a beer style that would compliment them...maybe a Beir de Guarde?

9:49 AM  
Anonymous Fergy said...

I drink stinging nettle tea all the time. It's good for regulating blood sugar as well. Great for diabetics.

10:46 AM  
Blogger Mjölnir said...

I've not tried fiddleheads but I heard they are quite tasty. There also is a fungus-type-thing that grows from the sawn trunk of a felled hemlock tree that supposedly tastes better than the most exotic mushrooms, but I don't know what its called.

I am actually thinking about using some nettle tea to flavor my next batch of brew, as it has quite an agreeable taste. I've not started my summer beer yet but I have to get my ass in gear here so I can have some ready. I'm thinking of a lighter beer this time but since I brew from malt extracts I find I've always had better results with darker fare. Any light beers I've tried were always too yeasty.

I suppose I could keg it though, and avoid the bottle fermentation.. with summer almost here I may have to keg in any case just to have a product ready to drink.

As for complementing nettles, I'd suggest a good hearty porter/stout type of brew, or a real dark ale..

11:22 AM  

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