The Feisty Forager: Wood Nettles
March Madness — Day 19
Wood nettles (Laportea canadensis) and stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) are both members of the Urticaceae family, and share both their nutritional value and their sting. If you live in the Southern Appalachian woodlands, chances are you will encounter the wood nettle. If you live in Europe, or in open fields with streams nearby, chances are you will encounter the stinging nettle.
No matter the variety, the result is delicious. Pick a generous bucketful (wearing dish gloves to protect your hands), wash a few times to get out bugs and caterpillars who love to munch on the leaves, throw a diced onion and a few diced potatoes in a soup pot with a pint or two of broth, and when tender, toss in the nettle leaves and a bit of salt. When leaves are wilted, blend together and serve with a swirl of heavy cream and freshly made croutons.
You can also wilt the leaves in a sauté pan, in a bit of olive oil or bacon fat, and serve as a green next to a piece of fish or your protein of choice. Dried, you can add to soups or stews for an extra dose of vitamins in winter. Be inventive! That’s what springtime is all about…
This article is one of a month-long series of foraged treasures. For more recipes from the field and forest, check out Appalachian Appetite: Recipes from the Heart of America.