Don’t Let Nettles Scare You

Nettle LasagneEat nettles?!? Are you kidding?

Low in calories, a blanched cup has 36% of Vitamin A and 43% of calcium daily requirements. And, cooked, they taste (and feel) great!  Wow!

But nettles are tricky.  You can’t touch them to wash or process them.  Nettle’s sting is designed to keep you away from their nutritious goodness. You must treat them as though they are boiling hot.  But the reward for your carefulness is most definitely worthwhile !

Wear gloves, then with scissors, cut the tenderest top leaves off–the very top, plus about 4 more leaves down the stem. I also include some of the stem, especially if I plan to chop the leaves up. 

I wash the leaves in the sink, using salad tongs to immerse and swirl the leaves around.  Then our salad spinner whisks all the water off the leaves.

Chopped NettlesScrambled eggs was my first attempt to incorporate nettles into cooking.  I sliced up my first batch of leaves because I didn’t want large chunks in my eggs.  First saute’ the leaves for about 30 seconds, then add the egg, and cook as normal.  Easy!

Scrambled Eggs with Nettles

 

It was pretty tasty–I zested it up with Tabasco Sauce.  Apparently only 30 seconds of cooking takes away the sting.  In my opinion, nettles taste better than spinach, and are even more nutritious.

For supper, I threw a bunch onto the top of our frying sausages and put the lid on for about 60 seconds.  The leaves wilted slightly and turned dark green, and they tasted great. Best of all, the mouth-feel is not slimy like many cooked greens can get. Nettles feel a bit–furry, I suppose, with more body–and not a whit of sting remains.

The next evening I made nettle lasagne.  One often hears about spinach lasagne–so why not nettle lasagne? They add a bit of a nutty taste to the dish, quite nice really.  I simply added the fresh leaves–using tongs–as another layer of my lasagne dish.  My daughter commented on the flavour of that lasagne three years later, so I would say nettle lasagne is a rip-roaring success!

Addendum: Nettle Quiche Recipe

In the spring the chickens lay in abundance, and the nettles grow the same way, so I found a crustless nettle quiche recipe which tastes great!  I go with crustless because I don’t need those extra calories, and because making pie crust takes time!  In the spring I’m busy planting and need to cook very efficiently.  Plus if my vegetarian son is home, I skip the meat so he can partake.

Ingredients
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 6-8 ounces fresh nettles, washed and spun dry
  • 8-9 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup half & half
  • 1.5 to 2 cups grated cheese such as Munster, or a mixture of Parmesan and mozzarella, or whatever you have that isn’t too tangy
  • A pinch of ground nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: cooked vegetarian bacon or sausage, crumbled [Shannon used some of her own pork sausage–not vegetarian, but oh so yummy.]
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Lightly grease one 9-inch pie pan.  Have a small extra casserole dish handy in case there’s a bit that won’t fit.
  3. Wearing gloves, dump nettles onto cutting board.  Using a long knife (I used a bread knife and long strokes) chop into pieces of about 1″ square.
  4. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  5. Saute’ onion about 6 minutes. If using sausage, brown it also at the same time.  Onions should be starting to turn translucent.
  6. Add chopped nettles and saute’ everything until nettles cook down and turn dark green. At this point the mixture will have absorbed much of the oil, so be careful not to scorch it.
  7. Add ground nutmeg to the nettles.
  8. In a large bowl combine the beaten eggs, cheese, salt and pepper.
  9. Add vegetable mixture to eggs and stir to combine.
  10. Pour into prepared pan or pans.
  11. Bake 30 minutes or until centers have just set. Don’t over bake.
  12. Cool for ten minutes before serving.

Adapted from http://www.vegetariat.com/2013/03/cooking-nettles/

 

 

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