Stinging Nettles

What to do after the harvest

Leaves:

  • To store for tea purposes, simply rinse and spread out to let them dry (this won’t fully remove the sting so handle with care).
  • To use directly, start by removing the stems (wearing gloves). The leaves can then be cooked (for instance added to a soup or stew for protein) or blended (if making a pesto or a dip): either method will eliminate the sting.
  • To preserve, blanch the de-stemmed leaves for a few minutes in salted water, drain well, chop roughly and freeze. Keep the water to use as stock! It can be frozen too, if not using at once.

Seeds:

  • Eat fresh as an energy-boosting trail snack. They tingle a bit but rolling them slightly between your fingers first will tone that down.
  • To dry them, spread out in a tray and leave a week or so. The seeds are then easy to rub off the stems (I use my fingers but you can also rub between two sieves or the like. Don’t worry about the very fine stems). Store in a jar in a cool place. Sprinkle a teaspoon onto your breakfast as a tonic supplement. (I don’t like taking a teaspoon directly because the texture of a clump of dried seeds in your mouth is a bit odd.)

A few recipes:

  • Tea: Put fresh or dried leaves in a pot and boil until the water starts turning green, or longer for a stronger brew (pouring hot water over the leaves is not enough to bring out the buttery feel of proper nettle tea). Optional: adding a few drops of lemon will turn it pink! If the season allows, throw in fresh bramble tops for a really good pairing.
  • Quick sauté: Sauté sliced garlic in some butter (with a pinch of chili if you like). Add fresh nettle leaves, season and fry till fully wilted. Serve with a squeeze of lemon.
  • General: Substitute fresh leaves for spinach in any recipe.
  • Nässelsoppa (Swedish nettle soup)

Dandelion

What to do after the harvest

Leaves:

  • Young leaves can be simply rinsed and eaten raw (think salad or smoothie.)
  • Older, more bitter leaves are more palatable after blanching: add to boiling water for 2 min, then drain. Repeat if necessary. Such a treatment will take away some of the nutrients, but you can save the stock, which also promotes digestion.
  • To preserve a large harvest for off-season enjoyment, blanch and freeze.

A few recipes:

Stinging Nettle

What to do after the harvest

Leaves:
The first thing to do is de-stem them. If using soon, store the leaves in the fridge 3-4 days, and rinse with cold water before using. To save them for later, you have a few options:

  • Rinse and spread out to dry, then store in glass jars (they may still sting)
  • Rinse and process in a blender, then freeze in food containers. (Blending removes the sting, and is the method to use to consume nettles raw, for instance in a pesto or smoothie.)

Another option, whether you’re going to use them immediately or freeze them, is to blanch them before anything else. This removes the sting and you can then de-stem more easily:

  1. Drop your harvest into a pot of boiling water for 2 minutes, till limp. The water can be salted (in this case save it to use as stock), or not (in this case you can directly drink it as tea).
  2. Drain the leaves thoroughly, squeezing out excess liquid, over a bowl.
  3. Remove stems and chop the leaves roughly.
  4. Use right away or freeze in food containers.

Seeds:
The seeds can be eaten fresh; that’s when they have the strongest stimulating effect, so avoid before bedtime (conversely, they are a great snack while on the trail). To preserve them, they can be frozen or pickled, but in my opinion the most practical way of preserving a large stock of seeds is to dry them:

  1. Spread out the clusters and they will dry out in a few days.
  2. Separate the seeds from the stems by rubbing them between the hands, or through a coarse-mesh sieve.
  3. Store in a glass jar.
  4. Take up to 1tsp a day mixed in with your morning yogurt, porridge or other breakfast (this makes them more palatable than taking a spoonful directly, at least to me!)

A few recipes:

  • Nettles can be used in place of spinach in any cooked dish that calls for the latter. Add the leaves to soups and stews for added nutrition.
  • Nässelsoppa (Swedish nettle soup)
  • (more to come)

Other uses:

  • Ripe fruit packed with nettle leaves keeps fresh longer as mould formation is stifled.
  • The leaves have a high nitrogen content: add them to your compost heap to boost the bacteria that break down the material.
  • For the same reason, they make an excellent fertiliser: Fill a bucket with nettles (the whole plant can be used) and cover with water. Leave out for a week or so. The resulting dark (and stinking) liquid is rich in nitrogen: dilute 1 part to 10 parts water to use as plant feed.

Khobbeizeh bi Zeit (Sautéed Mallow)

Mallow (malva sylvestris), known in the Levant as khobbeizeh (“little piece of bread”, possibly due to the round shape of its leaves or its nutritional value) is out in force right now. Here’s a simple recipe for a mezzeh or breakfast, or as a side. Yum.

Poppy

Stumbling across a patch of poppies, a firework of red over a green or golden field, is the joy of my summer hikes. There is little danger of mistaking them for anything else. A few recipes: