Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Wild Edible Number 10: Stinging Nettles

Last year, we discovered we had copious amounts of stinging nettle growing in our yard. Stinging nettle is a common plant and delicious edible. It is so named because if you brush the tender parts of your skin against the plant, a toxin is released that causes a stinging sensation not unlike that of fire ants. The sting's painfullness is dependent upon the plant. The plants around us aren't so bad and if you pick them with the tough pads of your fingers, you can't even feel it. We have heard reports of much more powerful nettles, however. Some people choose to pick the plants with gloves on, but this can be cumbersome.

The sting is entirely destroyed by drying thoroughly or cooking for even the briefest period of time. The plant, when cooked, is like mild spinach. Last year I made quiche with it. My friend Rebecca turns it into a pesto. And this year, I made cream of stinging nettle soup which baby Yub Yub scarfed down! The pureed soup consisted of chicken stock (I make my own from locally raised free range birds), onions, potatoes, garlic, stinging nettle, salt and pepper. It is simple and reminded me of the first course served before dinner on my trip to Germany and Austia when I was a teenager. The soup is finished with a dash of cream. This is a recipe for company.

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