Stinging nettles - which lose their "sting" after being cooked for one minute - are easy to identify, and deliciously yummy. They remind me of spinach, but maybe a bit woodsier. I now substitute them for pretty much any dark leafy green veggie in recipes. Not only are stinging nettles pesticide-free gifts of nature, but according to my research, they are also a nutritional powerhouse, chock full of all the dark-leafy-green veggie benefits including iron, calcium, and folic acid.
In early spring, we donned long sleeves and pants, gloves, and boots, and ventured down to the nearest trails to pick our first lot. A modest half grocery bag's worth.
Never having cooked with Stinging Nettles before, I wanted to tread lightly. Even my husband (who generally does not get as excited about food) was all too eager to help me pick them, probably in large part for the fact that he got to jump into the weedy shrubs, thorns and brambles and be a little boy again. And we had two other adorable helpers.
You are supposed to harvest only the top two or three bracts of the plant while they're still young, so they have a chance to keep growing (at which point you can go back and pick more yumminess!) and snip off the leaves to cook with.
It cooks down almost exactly like spinach, in the fact that it loses as much water.
Since then, we have gone back again and again and have picked many more bags full. Boy-oh-boy we have discovered a whole new world and have had so much fun experimenting with it in different dishes. Stinging nettle and garlic homemade deep dish stuffed crust pizza, anyone?
Or, simply tossed into boring old spaghetti sauce? Or, perhaps a semi-foraged version of delicious Indian Palak Paneer? The possibilities are endless. Thank God for these simple delights of nature.