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Nettles

Nutritional Information:
Did you know that nettles contain the highest plant source of iron. It is an EXCELLENT source of vitamins, minerals and protein. It is literally a "super-food."  Forget all these designer capsules and energy drinks.

Stinging Nettle has a flavor similar to spinach when cooked, and is rich in vitamins A, C, D, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium. Young plants were harvested by Native Americans and used as a cooked plant in spring when other food plants were scarce. A soup made from the young shoots is considered a spring delicacy in Scandinavia. Cooking or drying completely neutralizes the toxic components found in this plant. Stinging Nettle should not be consumed after it enters its flowering and seed setting stages, as the leaves develop gritty particles called "cystoliths" which can irritate the urinary tract.

Soaking nettles in water will remove the stinging chemicals from the plant, which allows them to be handled and eaten without incidence of stinging. Young leaves generally have a better taste than older, more bitter leaves.
Nettles can be used in a variety of recipes, such as polenta and pesto. Nettle soup (or Nässelsoppa in Swedish) is a common use of the plant, particularly in Northern Europe. Young nettle leaves are similar in texture to spinach and other leafy greens, and can be substituted for or mixed with other greens in recipes.

The high protein content of nettles makes them nutritionally valuable for vegetarians. (Wikipedia: Stinging Nettle)

Storage Information:
Do NOT wash your greens until you are ready to use them.  Store them in a plastic container or bag in your refrigerator, as you would lettuce.  Greens are most nutritious if used within a few days of picking although they do keep well for a week or so refrigerated.  Wash leaves submerged in cold water before using them.  These vegetables tend to retain grit from the ground they were grown in and some may require two or three washings use gloves!

Another tip for storing greens: wash and shake dry.  Wrap in waxed paper, put in plastic bag and close.

Fun Food Facts:
This is where it gets hard for people, but I make it easy.
There are a lot of people who have heard this about wild plants such as nettles and dandelions, but I know you may be asking yourself, "How do I find nettle, gather it, and actually use this plant??"
This is EXACTLY what LearningHerbs.com is all about.
I am going to make this REALLY easy. (Information provided by Marielle Arsac)

Simple From Scratch:
First, I will tell you how to cook with nettles.
(Bear with me, I'm going to work backwards here.)
I could list a bunch of recipes, but instead I am going to simply tell you to find any recipe you like that calls for greens, such as spinach or kale. Then, replace those greens with nettles.
Get out your favorite soup, stew, quiche, lasagna, pesto or even spanakopita recipe, and replace the greens in the recipe with nettles.
Kimberly actually made Nettle Spanakopita as a potluck dish at our friends wedding this Spring! It was all eaten up by the time I made it through the food line. :( In case you were wondering, she simply used the recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook and replaced spinach with nettles.
Heck, you can simply steam nettles and serve them as a delicious side dish. Sprinkling some Parmesan cheese on top is really nice.

What I like to do with nettles, from Julia
1) make a tisane (herb tea) with them. I like the taste of this tea, especially right after you swallow: it's delicious. Herbaceous, yes, bright green, yes. I just love it. recipe/instructions are below
2) order nettle anything on menus when I'm eating out. What did Chef A. or Chef B. do with nettles tonight!  I want to know.
3) use them as a cooking green. They're rather tender, and once they hit the heat the sting leaves nearly immediately and they are not only safe to eat,

They are beyond healthy and quite delicious. I sauté them with a bit of garlic, S & P and toss with noodles. Same as I would do with kale or chard in a basic noodle dish. Read on for more recipes. enjoy!

Other Recipes:
Nettle Risotto
1/4 pound young nettles
11 oz risotto rice (i.e. arborio)
2 leeks or 1 onion, cleaned and chopped small
2 Tablespoons butter or olive oil
1/2 vup dry white wine
6 cups or slightly less chicken or vegetable stock
1 oz grated Parmesan cheese
S & P to taste
Heat the stock in a large saucepan. Wash the nettle leaves. Blanch for 2 minutes in boiling salted water, drain and chop very finely. Cook leeks/onions gently in half the butter in a large saucepan for a few minutes until tender. Add the prepared nettles and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring. Add rice and cook over a slightly higher heat for 2 minutes while stirring. Pour in the wine. Cook, uncovered, until all the wine has evaporated, then add about 1 cup boiling hot stock; leave the risotto to cook, stirring occasionally and adding about 1/2 cup boiling stock at intervals as the rice absorbs the liquid. After about 14 - 15 minutes' cooking time the rice will be tender but still have a little 'bite' left in it when tested; take off the heat and stir in the remaining butter which will melt and make the rice look glossy; sprinkle with the freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste, stirring gently.
CHEATERS VERSION: purists, close your eyes before you go on!
yes, I sometimes make risotto in my pressure cooker, with results that satisfy a family staying home to eat that night. Just don't tell Nonna! Cook up the onions/leeks in the butter/oil in a pressure cooker. Add rice, stirring often, until lightly golden. Add nettles, stir them in. Add wine, stir to mix. Add broth. Increase heat to high. Continue to stir until it all comes to a boil. Close pressure cooker lid (use instructions that came with it, the newer versions are quite safe). Cook on the first red ring if you've got that kind. (I have a Kuhn Rikon) Adjust heat and cook on the first red ring for 7 minutes. Remove from heat, run the whole pot under cold running water until the pressure is safe/done so you can *safely* open the pot. Open up, stir in the parmesan cheese. It works for me! -Julia

Nettle Frittata
by Mark Gordon of Terzo in SF
Yield: 6 portions
½ # Cleaned Nettle Tops
4 Tbls Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Garlic Clove, Chopped
6 lg Organic Eggs
¼ C Heavy Cream
Salt & Pepper to Taste
Preheat oven to 300º Cook 1/3rd of the nettles in one tablespoon of the olive oil in a non-stick pan. Cook until tender adding a small amount of water if needed. Repeat this 2 more times adding the garlic on the third batch. Place all of the cooked nettles on a cutting board and chop finely. Place the nettles in a bowl of a food processor with the eggs, salt, pepper and process until the nettles are incorporated into the eggs. Add the cream and process for 10 seconds. Heat the non-stick pan on medium with the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add the nettle mixture and with a rubber spatula move the eggs around to get the entire mixture warm. Place into the oven and cook for about 12 minutes. Let cool for 3 minutes then turn the frittata out onto a plate and cut.

Nettle Tisane
Nettle tea is pleasantly herbaceous without tasting like you are steeping a suburban lawn. I find the 'afternotes' especially pleasant and mellow. Nettle tea is reported to be a great blood and liver tonic. A nice thing about this recipe: you can use the whole leaf and stem, no need to remove the leaves from the stems. I use a little tea strainer when pouring the final tisane into cups.
1 pyrex measuring cup
boiling water
nettles to loosely fill 1/3 to 1/2 of the measuring cup
1. Soak the nettles in cool/cold water for a few minutes.
2. Boil the water
3. Rinse nettles, using tongs or dishwashing gloves to not sting your hands.
4 Place cleaned nettles in measuring cup or teapot or glass bowl, pour water over to fill cup, and steep the 'tisane' (a tea made with fresh herb) for 5 or so minutes. Enjoy.

Sauteed Nettles with Green Garlic & Olive Oil
Created by: Armando "Tiny" Maes of Lavanda
serves 6
1 ¼ # Nettles, Cleaned
3T Green Garlic (Chopped)
1/2 cup Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper (To Taste)
First preheat a large sauté pan on medium high heat, (one large enough to accommodate the nettles, you can even use a large pot as well). Second pour ¼ cup of the olive oil into the preheated pan. Then put all of the green garlic into the pan sauté briefly for about 30 seconds, just enough time for the green garlic to release its essential oils, being sure not to brown or burn the green garlic. Place the nettles into the pan and give it a good stir, let sit for just a second and then continue the stirring process. Once the nettles are completely wilted place them on a plate, drizzle with the rest of the olive oil and place a couple of lemon wedges for garnish.
Note: The nettles do not have the water content like spinach or other similar greens. So it might help to put a couple Tablespoons of water into the pan after the nettles have started cooking, just to hurry the cooking process. Myself I do not put the water, because I like the texture of the nettles when you sauté them. It is like little crispy nettle leaves and it also brings about a certain nuttiness.

Fettuccine with Nettle & Ricotta Pesto
Created by: Armando "Tiny" Maes of Lavanda in Palo Alto
serves 8
1# Fettuccine (Preferably Fresh)
1/2 pound Nettles
6 oz. Ricotta
5 oz. Pine Nuts
1/4 cup Pecorino
2 T Parmesan
3 T Green Garlic (Chopped)
1 ¼ cup Olive Oil
8 T Sea Salt
6T Butter
First you blanch the nettles in salted water. Bring 1 gal. of water and 4 T of sea salt to a boil. Then place the nettles into the boiling water, just blanching them for about 1 minute. Take them from the water and place them into a strainer so that the excess water can drain away and so they can cool down to room temperature. Then rough chop the nettles and squeeze them dry as best you can. Place the nettles into a blender or food processor; add your oil, 4 ounces of pine nuts(saving the rest as a garnish) and the Green Garlic. Blend until all ingredients are combined about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Place the combined ingredients into a bowl, add your pecorino, parmesan and ricotta. Finish the pesto by folding in the three cheeses just until it looks like everything has come together.
In a separate pot bring 2 qt. Water and 4 T sea salt to a boil to cook the pasta (you should be able to taste the salt in the water, if not add more). In a separate large sauce pan or large sauté pan place about just less then half of the pesto mixture, 6 T butter and about a ¼ cup of the pasta water, heat all ingredients just till hot but not boiling or popping. In the pot cook the pasta for approximately 2-4 minutes pull the pasta from the water and toss with the warmed pesto sauce, cook on medium heat for just about 2-3 minutes so that the sauce has time to infuse into the pasta.

Nettle Soup by Maud Hallin
Serves 4
½ lb. fresh nettles
1 quart chicken broth
1 hard boiled egg
1 tbs. butter
Rinse nettles. The soft stalks can be used. But if you pick nettles of fully grown plants, use only the leaves. Of course, the fresh young tops are the best. Be sure to wear gloves, as they sting, until they have been cooked. Put rinsed nettles in a pan with a quart of water. Put to a boil. Push down the nettles into the water. When all nettles have been softened, drain liquid from nettles. Puree the nettles, mix with the chicken broth. Heat up mixture, add salt and pepper to taste. Of course, you may add chives, or a dash of garlic. As this is considered a spring dish in Scandinavia and Russia, an egg, which symbolizes rebirth, is often added. You may add some lovely quail eggs, or half an egg. The white and yellow looks especially nice as a center piece of the soup. The most elegant version is to chop an egg and mix it with soft butter. Put mixture onto some plastic wrap, and form into a sausage. Refrigerate until hardened. When ready to serve soup, cut egg/butter mixture into thick slices and put into center of soup plates. Excellent for increasing your intake of iron. Nettles freeze very well. If you have a garden, or plants, save the liquid, as fertilizer. If you allow the liquid to ferment, it works nicely as a bug spray. What many modern city people don't realize is that nettles are considered in some countries as exquisite as wild mushrooms. Nettles are used in many other countries, but to people in the Northern Hemisphere, after a long dark winter, these very early spring greens add a very needed supplement of iron, and fresh vegetables, when the root cellar was getting pretty bleak.

Martin's Nettle-Topped Linguine
1/2 pound linguine, cooked during nettle prep
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1 bunch green garlic, or 4 cloves garlic
1 shallot or small onion
Salt and Pepper
3/4 pound of fresh Nettles
fresh Parmesan or Pecorino cheese to grate
Nettle Preparation: Soak in cold water for at least 5 minutes while you put together the other ingredients. Completely submerge the nettles in cold water. Take care not to touch them yet. With a glove, remove the leaves from the largest stems. Some folks eat the stems too, it's up to you.
Cook shallot and garlic in the oil and butter over medium heat. Spin dry nettles in a salad spinner. Toss the dried-off nettles into the garlic/oil pan when the shallot is softening and toss with tongs until the nettles are wilted. At 1/4 cup or so water, turn to low heat, then cover, simmer until soft. Add cooked noodles, season to taste, and serve with grated cheese.

Potato Nettle Soup
2 cups Nettle Leaves (young shoots)
1 Onion
6 small Potatoes
8 cups Water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp. Parsley
3 cloves Garlic OR 3 stalks green garlic
Puree onion, garlic, and nettles with 1 cup of water. Cut potatoes into small pieces. Simmer pureed mixture with potatoes and remaining water for 45 minutes or until tender. Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes making the soup thick and creamy.
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