This weekend, we celebrated Spring in our usual way – by getting outside and doing yard work! When it’s Spring cleaning time in our yard, I always start out cutting back blackberry vines (they grow at a sort of creep-fast rate here in the Northwest) with great vigor. It’s cathartic, invigorating, even! And a couple of hours in, my arms look like I lost a battle with a housecat and I’m bedraggled, exhausted, and kinda mad. That being said, I got the main areas of our yard cleaned up, and took a big load of stickery vines to the yard waste, and guess what I found underneath all that mess? Another plant that combines an aggressive defense mechanism with deliciousness…
Stinging Nettles! This feels a bit nostalgic, because the first blog posts I wrote (ever!) were about nettles. If you’ve seen those posts, you know that I love harvesting these nutrition-packed leaves that grow at the edge of the forest, blanching them in boiling water to remove their sting, and celebrating the start of Spring by drinking nettle tea and using the leaves like spinach or other greens.
This year of blogging went fast, and it’s been a lot of fun coming up with recipes, sharing tips and ideas, and thinking about how to make my family’s diet more healthful, wholesome, and delicious.
Over the course of the year, we’ve made some big changes, and right now we’re not eating risotto of any type, so I wanted to try something new with this year’s nettles. Lately, we’ve been enjoying Crispy Kale Chips with Umami Sprinkle, so I thought I’d try the same technique with nettles. Should work, right?
First, I put on gloves – heavy leather ones are fine, but I wish I’d grabbed dishwashing gloves that extend up your arm, because I got one or two stings as I harvested. Every year!! I snipped larger leaves into a paper bag, and clipped the smaller leaves and buds into another bag to use for tea.
Inside the house, I boiled water and rinsed the leaves in a colander (I changed into dishwashing gloves – much better). I set up a bowl of ice water next to the pot, and then plunged the leaves in large handfuls into the boiling water for about 30 seconds, and then scooped them out with a slotted spoon and into the ice water for a few minutes. Then I spun the cooled leaves in a salad spinner to get the excess water off, and laid them out on parchment paper.
I’m not gonna lie – this part got a bit tedious. The leaves are smaller and more tender than kale, so laying them out on the parchment took a minute. Then I sprayed them gently with olive oil, and baked at 325 degrees for a few minutes. I checked them frequently, because they are so much thinner than kale, and I have to say, they shrank up like Shrinky-Dinks! I pulled the sheet out as soon as they were fully crisp and sprinkled them with a savory-salty combination of powdered Sencha and sea salt. ( I left off the Smoked Paprika that I include on kale – I think it would overwhelm the gentle flavor of nettles.)
I have to say – yum! The leaves themselves have only a little vegetal flavor, but they were delicately crispy and airy, and a great little snack to celebrate the season!