I was browsing a favorite UK foraging website called Eat Weeds looking for more information about Stinging Nettles, one of my favorite wild Spring plants to eat. The botanical description was simple, “An upright plant with dull green, serrated leaves, covered with stinging hairs. The flowers are small, green and catkin-like with no petals.”
Stinging Nettles are foraged almost everywhere in the United States; near riverbanks, in forests, on mountains, by the roadside. They are packed with vitamins A, C and some B vitamins which make them the perfect healthy Spring green to eat. Best of all, they taste incredible. When cooked, they taste similar to spinach, yet more herbaceous, fresh and mild.
If they are so common and so tasty, why aren’t more people eating them?
The Sting in Nettles
Why aren’t more people eating them? I wondered about that point after noticing that none of the 30 employees at my foraging company really ate them with any vigor. I wondered if part of the problem for most of us was the ‘stinging’ part of the name.
When you come in contact with raw nettles the little hairs will sting you, causing a mild burning sensation and possible rashes. Nettles sting with formic acid, the same irritant found in stinging ants. If you are to read (and believe) some online medical sites, you may also drop dead.
Don’t be scared, simply handle raw stinging nettles wearing latex gloves. You can saute raw nettles or boil them to remove the stinging effects and render them irresistibly delicious.
Nettles make a great spinach substitute in any dish you make. I love them simply boiled and served as a tea to a wide range of pasta and gnocchis to soups to these wonderful Stinging Nettle Toasts with Sweet Onions and melted Fontina cheese.
You can pick nettles almost everywhere this time of year or find them in most farmers markets or from specialty food companies like Foods In Season, based in Washougal, Washington.
Give my simple nettle toasts a try today and post a picture of your creation hashtagged with #PistouAndPastis
Stinging Nettle Toasts
A delicious, seasonal wild Spring treat to eat made from stinging nettles.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 sweet onion sliced
- 1 pound nettle leaves
- 1/4 cup crème fraÎche
- 1/2 tsp lemon juice
- 1/2 pound Fontina grated
- sea salt, black pepper
- a few grates nutmeg
- 8 to 16 slices baguette, sourdough, or any other bread you love.
Heat the olive oil and butter in a sauté pan. Cook the sweet onion for ten minutes over medium heat until the onion softens and just starts to brown.
Add the nettle leaves and cook until wilted, about five minutes.
Hand chop nettles coarsely then mix in a bowl with a 1/2 cup crème fraÎche, lemon juice, and half of the fontina cheese. Season with salt, pepper, and a few grates of nutmeg.
Heat your broiler and lightly toast the bread on both sides. Spoon the nettle mixture evenly on the toasts, cover in remaining cheese and brown under the broiler until golden and bubbling. Serve immediately.