This is a good patch of stinging nettles. They are perfect at this time of year — just bring along some work gloves, your kitchen scissors and a plastic bag and snip off the tender tops. I could literally fill the freezer with cooked nettles awaiting their uses in pasta, risottos, or just on a plate with a little butter, salt and pepper.
You’ll get some strange looks when you’re out harvesting. Some people wonder about the green plant you’re stuffing into a shopping bag, one guy asked me about all the ‘mint’ I was cutting (it’s probably a bad idea to make a mojito with these). A woman out walking her dog knew they were nettles, but was surprised that they were actually edible, and not just painful.
Well they are both painful and edible. Cook them and they won’t be painful. For dinner, stinging nettle risotto.
You can just see the hairs that deliver the payload of chemical irritants into your skin (if you’re not wearing a long-sleeve shirt, long pants and gloves). Fortunately, cooking them in boiling water completely negates the stingers.
The risotto was made with the intense liquid remaining after cooking about 5 lbs of nettles. This liquid is medicine. Save it for a nutritious tonic. Some nettle purée has also been added to give the deep green colour and flavour. If green had a flavour, this might be it. Some cooked nettles and parmigiano-reggiano are on top.
You could also use the nettle stock as a soup. Here is some quinoa cooked in the stock with chopped nettles and caramelized onions. Quinoa is a source of complete protein. Nettles are very high in protein. Needless to say, this soup is extremely healthy and delicious.