Wild Nettles on my menu!
What are nettles?
We are fairly new to serious foraging for food. While I have been something of an outdoorsman for most of my life, I never really had a need nor a burning desire to fully utilize the natural bounty that wild food foraging can benefit us.
For 40 or 50 years, I have known that wild nettles were edible. All of the books said so. Still, upon moving here 5 years ago and finding a nettle herb patch in our driveway, I had to ask myself, “what are nettles good for?” I sought to eradicate them but fortunately, nettles are very hardy and resilient.
We have recently acquired several field guides and foraging books. We have been sampling the weeds in our yard and the plants we can identify on our cruising trips. As a whim, I went down to the driveway this evening and harvested a small batch of common nettle shoots.
After steaming for about 5 minutes with a bit of salt and adding a pat of butter, we sampled this weed.
I will never cut down another nettle patch. These fresh greens are the best wild foods I have ever tasted, with the possible exception of wild asparagus. I would put them ahead of most of the store-bought greens I have ever prepared.
Wear gloves while gathering. As a child, we would sometimes accidently, and sometime intentionally rub a nettle across our skins. They do sting! I think I introduced my children to them by finding a leaf or a sprig, and touching their arms. If you don’t scratch, the sting goes away pretty quick. If you wash with soap, the oils go away. No harm, best way to learn.
I will be going out again in a few days for some serious nettle gathering. We ran across a very healthy patch at Square (Boat) Harbor on Guemes Island and look forward to another succulent meal of these delightful edibles!