The time is nigh for stinging nettles. They are best picked before they flower. To avoid being stung, long sleeves, pants and gloves are recommended. My husband and I (heretofore referred to as "we" or "us.") wore the proper attire and went into the woods this morning, bucket and scissors in hand.
The woods looked like this. Moss was having a field day. We were too. As we approached the edges of a field, we spotted our prey. Beautiful, young nettles were growing next to blackberry, salmon berry and trailing native blackberry vines. Wearing gloves, we clipped about four quarts of loosely packed nettle tops. For us, harvesting wild food is one of our favorite things to do.
Nettles have been used by First Nations people for centuries. They have been reported to be a tonic for lung issues such as asthma and bronchitis. They also are said to help clear skin conditions and help hair grow stronger. In Great Britain they even have nettle eating contests where they eat them raw- and see who can handle the terrific pain of masticating all of that formic acid in those needles.
Fortunately cooking nettles removes the sting. And soup cures all ills. So we made soup. It's really quite simple: you just cook a chopped onion in some butter and olive oil until it's soft. Then add two teaspoons of chopped garlic, one third of a cup of raw rice, four cups of chicken or vegetable stock, and using tongs- pile in the nettles. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for twenty minutes, or until the rice is soft.
Then you puree the soup in a blender and add salt and pepper to taste. Spring in a bowl. Without the sting. Some fresh chives chopped on top would also be a nice addition. We are happy to report ours are growing like crazy next to our raspberry canes- which are leafing out. Now if only the morels would show their pine-cone shaped heads we'd head back to the woods...
When the world hits you over the head- head to the woods- that's the best cure! And make soup, too.