Spiky and Splendid
by Janelle Weaver
At our restaurant, The Bewildered Pig, we can’t get enough wild nettles when they are in season! They have an earthy flavor that’s often compared to spinach, but “wilder.” The puree recipe below is our favorite method of “preserving them,” because it takes little time and the end result takes up little space. Blanching the nettles is great as it “locks in” the chlorophyll and the nutrients. Kept frozen, you can use this bright green puree for all kinds of things. Not only does it taste great, but also nettles are packed full of nutrients to keep you super healthy! If you want to forage for nettles yourself, bring along an experienced, knowledgeable forager. It’s smart to wear gloves to work with raw nettles to avoid getting “stung.” Only purchase nettles from a reliable source.
Nettle puree is excellent with all kinds of dishes—as a pasta “sauce,” added to aioli (wow—how healthy to make a fresh garlic & nettle aioli with farm fresh eggs?!), or mixed with ground toasted nuts and fresh garlic to make a pesto. Use as-is for a sauce for vegetables, cheese, fish, or game. Stir into an egg custard, mix into fresh pasta dough. Add to whipped cream cheese and serve with bagels and lox. The possibilities are endless, and we’ll explore as many as we can while spring lasts!
Up to 1 lb. wild Nettles (or more)
Oil of Choice~see notes
Equipment/Other things needed:
Stock Pot or large saucepan
Spider (hand held strainer)
Large bowl fitted with a basket strainer
Pair of trimming scissors
Depending on the size/growth stage of the nettles, you will need to trim them accordingly. Very young nettles don’t need to be trimmed, whereas with older nettles, you will need to clip the leaves from the woody, spiky stems. You should rinse the nettle leaves before blanching to ensure they are free of forest debris and bugs.
Have your trimmed nettles at the ready. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Salt like the sea. While the water is coming to the boil, prepare an ice bath in a large bowl. Once the water is boiling, add the nettles. Do not overcrowd the pan—you may need to do this in batches. Boil for 20 seconds.
Using your handheld strainer, remove the nettles from the water and plunge them into your ice bath. Jiggle them to insure they chill quickly. Remove, wring them out with your hands (blanching makes the sting go away, so you won’t need your gloves at this point). Place onto the clean towel and wring out again to further remove excess water. In small batches, place nettles in the blender. Add oil to cover. Blend until smooth. Store in small containers and freeze until needed.
A note on oil: If you do not want the oil to impart flavor, you should use a non-GMO canola. Olive Oil is fine, but it will lend its flavor, so keep that in mind. You can blend canola & olive oil to dilute the flavor of the olive oil. Peanut or coconut oils are not recommended.
You can add herbs of choice to flavor your puree as desired. If you only have a small amount of nettles, you can use spinach to increase your quantity. Blanch the herbs separately (they only need 10 seconds in the boiling water).
The Bewildered Pig serves dinner from Thurs–Sun 5:00–9:00pm.
1810 Highway 128, Philo. | (707) 895-2088 | bewilderedpig.com
Photo by Paul M on Unsplash