Winter being the time of roasted meats and root vegetables, its refreshing when spring greens start popping up their bright leafy heads. Just back from a three day visit to Paradise Within organic farm on Saltspring Island with her son Lucas, bicycle loaded with freshly harvested nettles and blackberry leaves, Chef Laura was quick to get these nutrient powerhouses onto drying trays.
1) Always wear long rubber gloves: the newer the better, as an older pair may be thin enough for the prickles to pierce.
2) Use scissors to make a clean cut, and take just the lighter green top section of the strongest, tallest plants in any given group of plants: no sense in damaging the plant, or over harvesting an area.
3) Use a lightweight simple cloth or plastic bag, or woven basket for carrying home your bounty: nothing fancy required.
4) On day of harvest set out in single layer on breathable drying trays: left wet and/or bunched up in a bag, the greens will break down and get slimy within a couple days.
5) Leave trays out in a cool, dry well ventilated area for 1-2 days: toss every morning and night, and they ought to be dry within 36 hours. Best not to heat or leave in direct sun. Dried nettles will keep for a year, though are so yummy they likely wont last that long!
6) Once leaves are dry, use gloves again when packing into ziploc bags: zip closed and store in a cool dry cupboard, NOT above stove or fridge due to moisture and heat that radiates from these appliances.
Dried nettles make delicious deep green and highly nutritious tea: use a loose handful of dried nettles per 1.5 cups of hot water and let steep five minutes before sieving out the nettles and drinking. When adding to soups or sautes just before serving, use 1 cup dried nettles per serving and fold into wetter ingredients to allow for rehydration. For drier recipes, poach dried nettles in hot water or broth for 1-2 minutes before being added to your favorite recipes in place of spinach, chard or kale. Nettles may also be reconstituted and eaten as a vegetable side dish, and my son will attest to their delicious-ness!
So far our family has enjoyed our SSI nettles with free-range eggs in Omelettes and baked Frittata, as well as Chicken Bone Broth & Wild Rice soup. Make use of the bones left from a roast or chicken to make super nourishing bone broth, add some rice, diced, celery, carrots or yams, and nettles and enjoy a fabulous lunch! Send an email to Chef Laura if you would like the recipes!