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 boiling water, drain well, squeeze out water, 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)

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.

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:

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: