I promised myself I’d harvest and eat a lot of nettles this year, after years of enjoying the fruit of friends’ nettle foraging labor. When we visited our local estuary the other day, we saw a huge stand of beautiful nettles, some already big enough to have tough stems. I knew it was time to get going on my nettle plan; with all the rain we’ve had here recently, it wasn’t going to take long for all of them to grow past their tender stage.
The next morning, I gathered up my leather gloves, nylon grocery bag, and utility shears and hit the trail. Within 10 minutes, the bag was stuffed full of lovely, dark green young nettles.
I steamed that first harvest, and we’ve had nettles at least once a day since last Friday. The girls love them, and so do I.
Here’s what we had for dinner on Friday:
Steam a pile of nettles for about 3 minutes, or until fully wilted and tender. Remove nettles from steaming pot into a colander set over a bowl. Let the nettles drain and cool, collecting the liquid from the bowl underneath them and combining it with the leftover steaming water. Save this rich nettle tea in the fridge and drink it in small doses (be careful – I drank a big glassful at 10 pm and was so energized, I didn’t fall asleep until 2:30 am).
While nettles are cooling, saute a few shallots in some grapeseed or olive oil, adding a splash of sherry when they’re tender. Add 4 cups broth of your choice, 4 whole peeled cloves of garlic, and half a small kabocha squash cut into bite-sized chunks. Simmer until squash is just getting tender, then stir in several potatoes cut into bite-sized chunks.
While the soup is simmering, turn your attention to the cooled nettles. Puree the stems and leaves in a food processor until everything is a smooth puree, but not turned to liquid.
When potatoes are tender, stir in nettles, add salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy.