‘What’s a nettle?’ I hear half of you all ask. And that is fine, because if you live on the west side of the pond, you won’t have spent your entire childhood being haunted by the dastardly things. Whilst those of us on the east side can’t even conceive it would be possible to not know what a nettle is. Funny, huh?
Anyway – for you west siders (and yes, you do have nettles) the nettle is a tall, hairy leaved bounty of stinging joy, which, although incredibly nutritious and widely available, does feel like you’ve been spiked by fiberglass if you even so much as dare to look at it sideways.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words so I’ll stop rambling here and present you with this:
(For anyone who hasn’t had the full lecture, this is just one of the many beautiful illustrations from my forthcoming book, 100 Things to do in the Forest, illustrated by Eleanor Taylor. Available to pre-order on Amazon and Amazon.co.uk )
Right. Where was I? Ah yes, nettles. So, you’ll want to wear some gloves when you’re picking nettles (or pull your sleeve down over your hands) as novices will almost certainly get stung. If you’re feeling cocksure and fancy-free, or you’ve spent so many years being stung that you don’t mind them anymore, you can just grab with wild abandon. Or you could use the tried and tested grasp them from the underside method which should allow you to pick without incident. (as demonstrated here by Jake)
Once you’ve got your nettles home, strip them from the stalks, put them in a bowl and pour some boiling water over them. Wait two minutes……. Now the stingers are dead.
To make your lovely SUPER EASY dinner, all you need to do is dig around in the bottom of your fridge and throw whatever veg you can find into a bowl. Cook some noodles (we used udon but since they “taste like worms” you might want to use a different noodle/pasta/rice to suit the tastes of your particular audience.
There’s no need to cook your veg – just slice it super thinly and distribute evenly amongst your bowls. Pour some miso broth on top – or really any broth you’ve got at this stage, pop in your noodles and then thinly slice the nettle leaves and stir them all in. We used half an orange pepper, 3 spring onions, 5 mushrooms, 400 grams of noodles and 2 heaped teaspoons of miso paste. But honestly, just use whatever you’ve got and you know your kids will eat.
What you will be asking – and I know this to be true because I happened to be sharing this self-same recipe with a gaggle of Americans last night who all had the same look on their face – why on earth would I go through all this trouble and potential personal injury just to eat a few leaves?
And now I will tell you. Because they’re free. And they are growing right outside your door. And they don’t have ANY food miles on them. And they are free (did I mention that already?). Also, they are way healthier than spinach: they contain 4 times the calcium(!); are composed of 25% protein(!); and are higher in iron and fibre! Did I already point out that they’re free? Or that they don’t come in a plastic bag like your spinach does? Also, they taste like spinach but they’re nicer than spinach because they don’t get that metallic tang that cooked spinach does – so your kids will eat them. You’re welcome.
Did I mention they’re free?
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