We have had an incredible amount of rain in the Southern Highlands and everything is squishy, muddy and damp. There is a little rainforesty walk that I take Pierre on, off his lead, which he just loves. All those dank smells, wombat holes and cow pats to roll in......
And lots and lots of this stuff.... "Stinging Nettles".
I know most people think, horrible weed, that gives you a nasty sting and rash but to the Italians it is a green that is commonly used in cooking when in season. It's free, it's not near a highway, so I know it's going to be clean, it's so good for you and I just love foraging and using what I can find locally.
When you pick the nettles make sure they have not started flowering and not too woody. Young and tender leaves are the best.
Health properties of Stinging Nettles:
It is literally a Super-food.
Nettles are an excellent source of calcium, magnesium, iron, chlorophyll, beta carotene, phosphorous, zinc, chromium, B vitamins, chlorophyll and other trace minerals including selenium, silicon and manganese.
Told you it was a super food!
Used as an anti-inflammatory, that goes back to ancient Greece.
I dry Nettle for a herbal tea, which is great for the liver.
Stinging nettles protects against hair loss, kidney stones, allergies, hay fever, osteoarthritis, internal bleeding, uterine bleeding, nosebleeds and bowel bleeding. Stinging nettles protects against enlarged spleen, diabetes, endocrine disorders, stomach acid, diarrhea, dysentery, lung congestion, cancer and anti-aging, and it is used as a general tonic. It is a blood purifier and it is useful with wound healing. Stinging nettles is used for muscle aches and pains also.
I feel better already!
Basket to carry the nasty critters.....
GLOVES must wear these....I wear these for night gardening....they are so bright!
Found a great recipe that also included sorrel...... I have plenty growing in our veggie garden. If you have never had Sorrel before and not sure what it tastes like, it has a lemony zing to its leaves and is great in salads! The one in the picture is red sorrel, which I think looks more striking.
Recipe courtesy of Hugh Fearnely-Whittinstall (River Cottage Chef)
Around 100g young nettle tops
About 900ml vegetable (or chicken) stock
30g butter, plus extra to finish
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
175g risotto rice, such as arborio
Sorrel leaves – up to half the quantity of nettles – finely shredded
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
50g finely grated matured goat's cheese, parmesan (or vegetarian parmesan) or other strong hard cheese, plus extra to serve
That big basket of nettle was about 100 grams, it cooks down to nothing. So make sure you pick lots!
I wore my glamorous plastic kitchen gloves and snipped the leaves off with kitchen scissors.
Wash the nettles, pick them over and discard the tough stalks. Bring a large pan of well-salted water to a boil, throw in the nettles and bring back to a boil. Blanch for a couple of minutes, then drain. When cool enough to handle, squeeze the nettles to extract as much water as possible and chop finely.
A salad spinner will do a good job in getting rid of the excess water.
Now I am going to get all "chefy" and show you how to "Chiffonade" a fancy technique for slicing herbs like basil, sorell, spinach etc. Layer the leaves like the pic.
Slice into pretty ribbons.....
Heat the stock until almost boiling, then keep warm over a low heat. In a large, heavy-based pan, melt the butter over a medium-low heat. Add the onion and sweat for eight to 10 minutes, until soft and translucent but not browned. Add the rice, stir to coat the grains, pour in a third of the hot stock and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring, until almost all the stock has been absorbed, then add the chopped nettles and a little more stock. Keep adding stock a bit at a time, making a new addition when the previous one has been absorbed, until the rice is nicely al dente (you may not need all the stock) – around 20 minutes in all – and the texture is loose and creamy. Stir in the sorrel, and season to taste. Dot a little butter over the risotto and sprinkle on the cheese. Cover, leave for a few minutes, then stir in. Serve straight away, with more grated cheese on the table.
I love how Nettle retains it's rich green colour.
I hope next time you come across a Stinging Nettle patch, you will look more kindly upon it.
It's in season now, so get the gloves on and grab a basket and spend an hour or so taking in the fresh air and forage away. You might just find something else that is growing that you can cook with!
If you can cook with something that you have grown, something that you have found in the wild....and of course cooked with love..........then you have made the perfect meal.....