Foraging For Nettles: Pain And Gain!

Foraging For Nettles: Pain And Gain!

Foraging for nettles need not be a painful experience

When foraging for nettles, aim to pick in spring and/or during the last flush of new growth in autumn. The whole plant can be picked, although, I just indulge in the young tender tops, before any flowering. Rubber gloves, scissors, long sleeves and trousers recommended. Picking just the tops, the plant remains, and sends out even more growth. Vital for the many insects who depend on nettles and a favourite for many caterpillars.

It has always puzzled me that when something is common, we tend to ignore it, yet nettles can heal and nourish, both us and the environment they choose to grow in. They are an over looked gem packed with goodness. As we seek to build a relationship with the plant world, little by little we will achieve what could be described as a knowing of the heart. Aim to do so slowly, take photos, walk with a pocket book guide, learn from smell, texture, leaf shape, stem shape, soil conditions and the time of year. Whilst social media and the internet may give an instant answer to plant identification, it will not teach you hedgerow craft. A knowledgeable teacher or companion is great, but it is possible through practice, to gain in confidence enough to be able to really benefit your daily life. Just remember the golden rule to cross reference every thing, until identification becomes second nature, if in doubt leave it out.

Foraging for nettles - A wild relationship

My nettle pudding supper, very local ingredients.

No need to be deficient in vitamin C and iron if you partake often of nettles abundant supply. Also if you suffer from hay fever, their roots contain useful antihistamines. Later in the season old growth nettles contain cystoliths, microscopic rods of calcium carbonate, which may interfere with kidney function, so stick with new young growth before flowering. Nettles can be used very much like spinach would, in soups, as a side green, in savoury tarts or in a good old fashion puddings (medieval ) as in the recipe below. Herbal teas and medicinal preparation from both the plant and seeds have a very long history, do explore its endless uses. I have promised myself that this year, I shall learn to make fibre, cloth and dye from nettles, and will endeavour  to share that venture with you . And just to settle that stinging question, when cooked, no sting.

Foraging for nettles - A wild relationship

Nettle pudding in muslin cloth ready for steaming.

The aim of this blog, is not to repeat on already abundantly available information, but to give you a taster from my own journey and experiences, which, I would politely describe as earthy and experimental, however I enjoy very much the results, which are tasty, wholesome, organic, have very low carbon foot prints and are light on the pocket, it is a joy to  be able to share with you.

Foraging for nettles - A wild relationship

Nettle Pudding.

So how about my version of medieval nettle pudding, which I  made after I returned from a quick walk with a bag full stinging goodness or a more trendy use, tasty nettle crisps. Please excuse the quality of the photography, my kitchen got rather steamy.

Steamed nettle pudding

1 cup of pearled spelt or barley.

1/2 cup flax seed.

1 large colander of washed nettle tops.

Small bunch of wild three corner garlic, chopped.

A few wild sorrel leaves , chopped.

Foraged Alexander seeds.

Herbs of your choice, mine were sage, thyme, rosemary, chopped.

2 small onions,chopped.

Vegetable bouillon.

1/2 cup of vegetable suet

1/4 cup of wholegrain flour

Salt & pepper to taste.

My method: Cook the pearled spelt in the bouillon with 3 cups of water, add alexander seeds, three corner garlic, chopped onion and herbs, cooked gently for 15-20 minutes , until liquid is absorbed and grains are tender, adding extra liquid if needed. Meanwhile in a large saucepan, blanch the nettles and sorrel leaves, in boiling water for 5 minutes, drain and chop up.

In a bowl mix the flax seeds, 1/2 cup of water, suet, flour, salt & pepper, add the cooked spelt mixture and the nettles, mix well, obtaining a firm mix, that can be moulded into a ball shape, season to your taste. Taking a muslin cloth, line a colander and lightly oil the cloth, add your mix, and mould to a ball shape, tie your cloth, with a piece of natural string and steam for approximately 45 minutes. Allow to rest for 5 minutes, unwrap careful and serve with vegetables of your choice, gravy or a sauce.

Foraging for nettles - A wild relationship

Nettle pudding supper, with steamed young alexander stems, carrots, potatoes and vegetable gravy.

And just one last recipe, nettle crisps, delicious

1 colander of washed nettle leaves, stems discarded.

Olive oil

salt pepper.

Heat oven to 200 degrees, gas mark 6

Oil a large flat baking tray and pre heat in oven.

In a large bowl, toss nettles in olive oil, transfer to the hot baking tray and cook in the hot oven, checking frequently and turning with a slotted spatula, cook for approximately 15 minutes, until crispy, but not burnt, a close eye needs to be kept. When done, serve in a bowl with salt and pepper, superb, I could eat them all night.

Nettle crisps

Please check out my other offerings on A Wild Relationship

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For more hints and tips, come and like my page on Facebook A Wild Relationship ~ Paula. I would love you to share your discoveries with me.

All content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only. I make no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site, or found by following any link on this site. Independent and expert advice should be sourced by anyone wanting to proceed with foraging. Consuming wild plants is done so at your own risk, I take no responsibility. I am the legal copyright holder of all written and photographic material under the category ‘A Wild Relationship’ and the contents and photographs cannot be used to reprint or publish without my written consent.


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