Nettles are notorious for their sting — but this prolific native plant packs a flavourful and nutritious punch worthy of a favored spot on your spring menu.
A new cookbook, A Taste of Life on Quadra Island, offers tips for harvesting, preserving and cooking with nettles.
“Nettles are the perfect tonic at the end of winter,” says cookbook contributor Jennifer Banks-Doll of Foot Forward Farm. Use gloves and scissors to protect your fingers, she advises. Once cooked, the sting is gone.
Some people harvest only the new buds and the uppermost leaves to cook like spinach. Others cut the whole plant to dry for mineral and vitamin-packed teas. The leaves freeze well for later use in soups, and the plant’s earthy flavour and dense texture makes it ideal for pesto and the crispy Spanakopita Triangles recipe found in the new cookbook.
A Taste of Life on Quadra Island includes over 100 colour photographs illustrating 140 mouth-watering recipes and dozens of gardening and foraging tips, along with foodie profiles. It’s available in retail stores throughout Vancouver Island.
The book, a fundraiser for the Quadra Children’s Centre, can also be purchased directly from the website https://www.islandcookery.com/, where you’ll find a food blog with additional recipes and tips.
NETTLE & GOAT CHEESE GALETTE
SERVES 6 OVEN 375 ̊ F CONTRIBUTOR AMBER VAN MALE, RED CEDAR FARMSTEAD, from the new cookbook A Taste of Life on Quadra Island
This is an earthy dish, with the deep green of the nettles contrasting against the goat’s cheese to give it rustic eye-appeal. The galette tastes great either hot or cold, making it yet another terrific option for a picnic or potluck.
galette pastry dough
8 cups of fresh nettles, packed
1 tablespoon butter, lard, or oil
1 large leek or two smaller ones, diced (use the green stems too)
2 to 3 cloves chopped garlic
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1 cup chevre (goat cheese)
1 large egg, beaten; plus an egg for a pastry wash
salt and pepper to taste
Make the pastry and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Gently wash nettles in a colander, using tongs to keep from getting stung.
Heat fat in a large pan and sauté leeks and garlic until translucent and lightly browned. Add nettles and vinegar; and cook until slightly wilted and any liquid has evaporated. Transfer to a bowl and let cool a bit; then add cheese, egg, and seasonings.
Roll out pastry dough to a 16-inch circle and transfer to baking sheet. Add the filling to the centre of the prepared dough.
Fold a 1½-inch border from the outer edge toward the centre, crimping as necessary, and leaving the centre open.
Whisk an egg with a slash of water and brush it on the pastry. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until golden brown.
Cool before slicing.