You've probably heard all the sayings about a weed being a perfectly good plant just growing in the wrong place. Some say weeds are plants whose virtues have yet to be discovered.
Weeding my new yard today I decided to test that idea. The number of stinging nettles popping up prompted me to do something more than just dump them into the yard waste bag. I separated the nettles from the others and considered my choices; I've heard they're great in soups, teas, pestos and pasta.
Stinging nettles are chocked full of iron and calcium along with lots of vitamin A and D. They have diuretic qualities that make them good for urinary and kidney issues. But then again, I'm not a doctor.
Usually an activity for spring foraging, the combination of cool weather and the snazzy new automatic sprinklers made the new nettles tender for the taking. Nettles are known to grow in recently disturbed, nutrient-rich soil and that certainly describes my recently tilled and amended front yard.
Whether you're out in the wild or weeding the backyard, remember to bring gloves and wear a long-sleeved shirt, they don't call them stinging nettles for nothing. And always be sure to correctly identify any weed you think you might want to eat. And only harvest where no herbicides are used.
I first became acquainted with stinging nettles while living in England, well, acquainted is too gentle a word. I'd had my moments with thorny tumbleweeds in California but couldn't believe such an innocent-looking, little green plant could be so painful. The locals taught us to apply a dock leaf, usually growing in the vicinity, to the burning red welts. Even better to simply avoid them altogether.
After gingerly harvesting these nettles I snipped the leaves from the top third of the plant and let them fall into a colander. Most experts will recommend boiling the nettles for several minutes to neutralize the tiny needles along the stems and leaves. Since I was going to saute them immediately I poured boiling water over them while still in the colander. Then I squeezed out the excess moisture with a paper towel.
You're left with a bright green blob resembling thawed-out frozen spinach which I chopped into small pieces. Bach-ing it while the hubby is in Belgium I decided to go simple. I sauteed onions in olive oil, then added the nettles, three well-beaten eggs and cheddar cheese. Tasty, not tingly.
You can find plenty of other recipes for nettles on the internet, as well as delicious ideas for using other weeds for healthy eating; you'll never look at purslane, lamb's quarters, dandelions or other much-maligned plants the same.
Once again, make sure you identify the plant before you take a single bite.