Published in MapleLine Magazine: August 25, 2010
by Marcie Gauntlett
One amazing 'green' growing naturally in the Sooke area is the ubiquitous stinging nettle. You have to be aware of this rather attractive plant with its pinkish-green buds and bristles, just waiting to prick unsuspecting souls. But nutritionally, to eat nettles is as good as kale, chard and collards, and it's free!
Find them by the riverside, the ocean or the lake. Wear gloves, jeans and long sleeves. Harvest new shoots in early spring and the tops of the plant later on. Just snap off the plant top, not pulling up the entire stalk.
Stinging nettles are rich in magnesium, calcium, iron, potassium, sulphur and iodine plus vitamins C and B-complex.
Nettles belong to the Urtica family and are found all across North America, but more often in temperate climates like BC. The leaf is almost heart-shaped, but serrated, and the fine “hairs” (stingers) are almost invisible to the human eye. Each “hair” is filled with the most amazing raft of ingredients including acetylcholine, histamine, and formic acid which when touched, will send you hopping several feet away! If you are not sure, just test a finger and be prepared; you’ll know immediately and will only want to suck the finger for maybe 6 hours! And of course the leaves lose their “sting” upon immersing in hot water or cooking. As long as history has been written, stinging nettles have been used as a cure for colds, sore throats, even scurvy and cancer and can be brewed up into a rather tasty tea. I love to make them into a delectable and nutritious soup. They can be frozen after washing and you can look forward to a real warming soup on a cold winter day.
Here is my nettles recipe:
Cut up leaves and stems coarsely and pack into food processor along with a good splash of olive oil and 2 or 3 cloves of minced garlic.
Process until reduced to fairly small pieces. Sauté one large onion, 2 stalks of celery cut up, and 10 baby carrots chopped for about 5 minutes and then add the processed nettles, stirring into the veggies.
Stir fry for about another 5 minutes and then add one or two litres of either chicken broth or vegetable broth, depending on your preference.
Check for taste and add salt, pepper and a dash of turmeric only; you don’t want to disguise the nettle taste with other spices.
Now take your wand mixer and give the mixture a good go - it will come out all creamy and nice. It is great this way; or, if you want to make it really special, add one can of coconut milk and simmer for another 5 minutes.
Serve as a starter for a grand dinner with a dollop of sour cream in the middle - it’ll be a hit for sure!
Marcie Gauntlett runs the French Beach Cooking School in Shirley, BC. www.frenchbeachcookingschool.ca
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This article was published on page 27 in the print edition of MapleLine Magazine (Fall 2010 issue ~ Aug.-Oct. 2010).