How to Prepare Stinging Nettle for Freezing and Recipes
One of the first edible plants to sprout from the ground in spring is the stinging nettle. For me, it’s the first real sign that spring is around the corner. In the Skagit Valley near sea level, where I live, nettles start to pop out of the ground between the end of February through the middle of April. Nettles are best harvested when knee high or smaller. Their flavor is wonderful! As long as you wear heavy rubber gloves, the sting doesn’t pose any threat to you. If you do manage to sting yourself, look around for dock. Crushed dock leaf will help alleviate the sting.Steaming is the key to preparing the stinging nettles for freezing and removing their sting. The ‘sting’ part of the nettle comes from the little hairs that cover plant. They are filled with formic acid. I always assumed formic acid had a low boiling point, which would explain why steaming is so effective to remove it from the leaves. However, a quick google search revealed that formic acid has the same boiling point as water.
Regardless, about 30 seconds of steaming is all it takes to remove the sting from the leaves. However, I usually steam for 2 to 4 minutes to tenderize the leaves. Steamed leaves should be slightly lighter in color, but not limp and formless. Unlike steamed spinach, nettle leaves will retain some structure and not be completely limp.
Steaming is most easily accomplished with a collapsible steam tray. This can be purchased at any local grocery store. For those unfamiliar with steaming vegetables, it’s done as follows:
- Put about 1/2 inch of water in the bottom of a pot
- Open the steam tray and put inside the pot
- Put the lid on the pot
- Turn the heat up to high
- Wait until steam is vigorously escaping from under the lid
Nettle prepared in this way goes well with any kind of pasta or sea food. Basically any food that would pair well with a white wine or spinach will pair well with stinging nettle. This video shows you how my wife cooked it in a ravioli and linguine dish:
I also found this YouTube video that I thought was very educational for the aspiring forager. Stinging nettle is a great way to introduce yourself to wild foraging. But hurry! Peak season is right now!