Moseying down a country lane in Ireland at this time of year often involves negotiating a path somewhere between the narrow roadway on one side and the inevitable ditch full of stinging nettles on the other. Yesterday afternoon, however, as I was giving the scads and scads of nettles an advisably wide berth, I was stopped in my tracks by a single thought, and the thought was this, that here was something I could eat… Without any further ado, I beetled back to my parent’s house, with a mission in mind which was going to require a pair of thick gloves.
Foraging, it seems to me at least, is all the rage these days. I mean Greg has been at it in LA, Sapuche in Hawaii and Marc in New York, to name but a few. Somehow, though, foraging seems almost too grand a word for what I did next, which was to walk to the back of my parents garden and snip a few nettles, but I suppose it does count as such.
The key thing with foraging for food in the wild, of course, is that you need to be able to identify the edibles in the first place, because they don’t come conveniently labeled in a package or from a market stall. Fortunately, I have absolutely no problem identifying nettles and, if your bare skin has ever had the misfortune to come into contact with any, neither will you.
It was quite traditional here in years gone by to pick young nettles in spring and cook them up in soups and such, almost like a spring tonic, such were the good-for-you qualities of this alternative green.
As my Ma did was telling me this, she did rather emphasise the fact that it was young nettles we were talking about. The nettles I had picked weren’t quite so young looking anymore.
It’s like spinach, my Da kept chirping in from his
throne chair in the sittingroom.
So, undeterred by the fact that I had not-so-youngish nettles, I made this, which is like something I would make with spinach. I will say that the age of the nettles did this dish no favours, as they never really got very tender and would probably have been more suited to being put in a soup or stew at this stage, if anything. Still, I’ll be keen to try this next spring, when I’ll have lots of tender, more spinach-like nettles at my disposal.
Nettles With Ginger And Yoghurt
Young, tender nettle leaves are a must for this. The older leaves get tough and chewy.
- 100g young nettle leaves, weighed after removing the stalks
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 x 2cm cube of root ginger, finely chopped
- 100ml natural yoghurt
- olive oil for frying
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
You’ll also need:
- Gloves, for handling the nettles
- Remove the leaves from the nettle stalks.
- To mitigate the stinging effect, I tried soaking the leaves in water with a couple of tblsp of vinegar for 30 minutes or more, as per zerrin’s suggestion, which seemed to help, but I still mostly kept the gloves on when handling the leaves.
- Rinse the nettle leaves and chop roughly.
- Place a frying pan over a medium heat and, when hot, add a glug of olive oil.
- Add the garlic and onion to the pan, stir and fry for a minute, then cover and allow to sweat for about 5 minutes or so, until the onions are translucent.
- Add the ginger to the pan and stir and fry for about a minute.
- Gradually add the nettles to the pan, stirring to combine with the onion mixture and allowing the nettles to wilt down. Should take around 3-5 minutes.
- Add the yoghurt to the pan, along with a good pinch of salt and a couple of twists of black pepper, stir to mix then cover and cook until the nettles are cooked through, maybe 5 minutes, though it’ll depend on how young and tender they are to begin with.
- Serve as a side to meat or rice dishes.
- You can, of course, use spinach instead if you don’t have, or don’t want to deal with nettles. You may want to use relatively more spinach by weight (say 200g at least), because it will wilt down considerably more upon cooking.
- Side-dish for 3-4 I’d say