As in the usual gardens and forests of Europe and the whole world, the stinging nettle, or urtica, is one of the most occuring plants, and, at least in the eyes of many children, gardeners and nature lovers, not much liked due to its poisionous leaves and the skin irritation it causes. In Tschechia, explained Maya to me, they say that a sting of a nettle means that one is healthy and in Hans Christian Andersons famous fairytale “De vilde swaner”, shirts were knitted out of stinging nettle to break a bane.
In our garden in Shipka, however, it is really common and really dominant. Just a few days ago, we chopped down an huge field of nettles to turn it into a potato crop. Since we do not have cursed brothers, we were forced to use them in a different way: We prepared a tea, crisps and a dish out of the stinging nettles from the garden. Here’s how we did it!
First, we prepared the stinging nettles with some gloves, we seperated the stalks from the edible leaves and washed the leaves whilst we composed the stalks on our composter. It is important to know that the leaves will be stingy as long as you don’t
a) munch them a long time, so the cannula of the stinging nettle breaks on purpose and can’t hurt you anymore,
b) heat them up or steam them, so the proteins of the acid will be destroyed or
c) blow on them REAL hard and REAL long (In 1874, botanist Charles Naudin discovered that strong winds during 24 hours made the stinging hairs of Urtica harmless for a whole week).
We would recommand the first two suggestions, though.
For the tea, we just put them in boiling water and waited for ten to twenty minutes. When mixed with lemon and some elderberry flowers, it tastes even better.
For the crisps, we dried them with a towel and mixed them with oil, salt, pepper and bellpepper. Then, we arranged them on a baking tray and left them in the oven (180* C) for 20 to 25 minutes. You can also experiment with other spices.
For the dish, we steamed them for 15 to 20 minutes. It should have the same consistence as spiach maybe and you can also spice it up as you would with spinach. Thereby, you can cook rice and stinging nettles together, so the rice will absorbe the special taste of stinging nettles and also will be coloured a nice blueish green, which is really interesting. We ate it with vegetables, sesame seeds and Tahani.
For another dish, we tried to cook stinging nettle soup, like it’s done in Germany sometimes. Therefor, we took stinging nettles, potatos, onions, carrots, tomatos, vegetable stock and some spices like salt, pepper, laurel, dill and chives and cooked it in a pot.
Of course you might ask why we eat stinging nettles when we could have potatos, spinach, cale, basil, sage and everything else to replace it in the recipes we made. Here are some good reasons to try it:
1. It’s literally everywhere and free
2. If you want to get rid of it, you don’t have to walk to the next compost.
3. It’s unbelievable healthy: Dry, it’s 25% pure protein, it contains more vitamin C and A than oranges and lemons and furthermore iron, flavonoid, magnesium, calcium and silicon.
4. It’s actually really tasty: Not at all bitter if you do it right, herb-like, a little bit sour and refreshing. Subjectivly way better than cale, spinach or cabbage
5. If you say that you eat stinging nettle, it sounds really impressive (or dumb, that depends on the surrounding)
There are a lot of other things you can do with stinging nettles. Here are some ideas which we didn’t tried yet:
You can literally just eat them like that when you break the cannules first.
If you like it fast, pesto with nettles, oliveoil, white cheese, roasted sunflower seets, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper is a nice add to noodles and an be conserved for quiet a long time!
In a Smoothie with apples, bananas, pears, nuts and honey, it could taste really good!
You can also use it just like that in a salad with a nice dressing of vinegar, olive oil, some fruit sirup, honey, salt, some spices and other ingrediences you might like.
By the way, there are also some traditional recipes with these plants: the “kopriva” is used in traditional dishes like in the bulgarian banitsa, the Byrek or the rheinländische (state of germany-ian) “Brennesselspinat”, which means nettle spinach.
Have fun with these ideas!