Spring is a time of year when we get to harvest some of our own food from the fruitful forests of the Northwest.
We love this process! There is nothing more satisfying than going for a walk in the woods and coming home with dinner ingredients. Even if we don't find what you were looking for, we got to be out. A win-win.
We were a little late this year, as the plants were tall and some were already flowering. We take just a few leaves from each plant to ensure an abundance next year as well. It was unseasonably warm so we did not wear our typical long sleeves and pants, and we were reminded of the sting. It lasts intensely for a few minutes, then fades.
Stinging nettles, Urtica dioica are a flavorful green that requires cooking before eating. The delicate hairs on the stem and underside of the leaves sting by releasing chemicals including formic acid and histamine when brushed. So wear gloves when harvesting and handling!
They turn a brilliant green when cooked. The broth is rich in flavor and nutrients, turning a nearly black green. After cooking it down we freeze it for use in future soups - the best source of umami from a vegetarian broth.
Dinner was from our most recent acquisition (cookbooks are our weakness). Local Portland Chef Joshua McFadden works with local ingredients seasonally; of course there was a nettle recipe. This was a frittata-ish dish with eggs cooked in cast iron, finished off with feta.
If you have a garden or you are a farmer's market connoisseur, check out this beautiful and informative book.