Early spring is the perfect time for going outside in your garden or into the nature in general and harvest some freshly grown plants. After months of eating veggies that are definitely not fresh from your garden but fresh from thousands of miles away; and let’s be honest, they just don’t taste like the ones that are grown in your own garden or balcony.
Something that I have learned early on in my childhood is that you can eat a lot of the things that just grow randomly near your house. Many of the herbs found in the wild are far more nutritious than the regular veggies that we get in the supermarkets. I just recently read that the nettle is also very healthy, sort of a super food. Nettles are a very good source of vitamins, minerals and protein, they are apparently the highest plant source of iron. It even beats spinach and broccoli in terms of vitamins and minerals! Another great benefit of nettles is that they are for free!
Ever since I was a child I got to eat nettles that grew around our house. It has never been strange to me to eat stuff that we “found”, my mom and grandma were really into getting food on our plates that was local and – more important – seasonal. So every spring we got to eat “nettle spinach” as it is called where I come from. This is very popular especially around Easter as it is customary to eat spinach on Maundy Thursday before Easter.
What you need:
- a big bowl full of freshly picked nettles
- 1 onion
- 500 – 750 ml vegetable stock
- 4 tbsp. vegetable butter
- 4 tbsp. flour
- soy cream
What to do:
Thoroughly wash the nettles and make sure that there are not other grasses, dirt, or bugs in the nettles. Chop the onion and let them sweat gently in a bigger pot for a couple of minutes. Then add the nettles and the vegetable stock and let them cook for about 10 minutes, until the nettles are tender (very young nettles will need a bit less than that so it really depends on them).
In the meantime, make a flour sweat (also called white roux) in order to thicken the spinach. First you need to heat the butter in a small pan and add the flour while whisking it. Reduce the heat when the mixture thins and starts to bubble. Cook it some time until you smell a toasty aroma.
After you have cooked the nettles put the mix into a blender, or use a blender shaft, and mix it until you get a smooth(er) liquid. Put it back into the pot, heat it up once again and add the white roux to make it thicker and add as much soy cream as you like. Season it with salt and pepper and it is ready to be served!
A few easy tricks and tips:
- Only pick the tender tips of the nettles – they taste better. Avoid the older leaves, and of course – steer clear of dog-walking areas…!
- Wear sturdy gloves while picking and washing the nettles to prevent stinging.
- I am by no means an expert on white roux, I have tried and failed on quite a few occasions, so here is a better explanation ;)
- Adding spinach or ramsons to your nettles make them even more delicious!
- Use less water at first to be on the safe side when cooking the nettles, you can always add some later in case the mixture is too thick for your taste. Personally I think it is easier to make something thinner than thicker.
- It is best served with potatoes and fried eggs, or I have also had it with dumplings before. Delicious!
So next time – especially in spring – when you go on a walk in the nature, have a look! Even the things that you don’t want to come close to – the ones that sting when you touch them, such as the stinging nettle. Yes, the nettle is edible, and not only just that – if it’s cooked in the right way (which is super easy) it is damn delicious in my opinion.