My second adventure in foraging (the first being kelp bread!)is in nettles, the resulting recipe some surprisingly delicious tahini lime nettle crisps.
The first time that I ever heard about anyone consuming nettles was years ago when a dear friend and I were having an adventure living in a stationary school bus in the middle of woods on the remote BC island Lasqueti. We were about 17 years old, and I for one was not very in touch with the source of food, and so when a man at the health food store suggested we make nettle tea, frankly, I thought he was a nuts. I have to admit that my view on the matter was slightly marred by an unpleasant incident when, during a trip to visit family in England as a child, I rolled into a patch of nettle. Since then nettle and I have not shared a great deal of love.
However, in recent years I’ve heard a lot about nettle, and seen some really beautiful looking recipes, and my opinion and intrigue have become a lot more positive. Now for the last couple of years I’ve been intending to try it, but kept missing the season when nettles are at their best. But not this year! No…this year, armed with gloves and some kitchen scissors, I pounced upon a burgeoning patch outside our kitchen window, and brought in a large bowl full of the beautiful young green leaves. But what to do with them? Nettle soup seemed a bit obvious (though I’m actually quite excited to try it, it looks delicious). Always one for a new snack, and a bit of a lover of kale crisps, I decided to go for nettle crisps. Then, when I was heading for my favourite barbecue dressing, the jar of tahini caught my eye, and I was inspired to try out something a little different.
I rinsed the leaves well in cold water, and broke them from the stems. Then I tossed them in the tahini lime dressing. I had read that at this point you can handle them without glove… I was trepidatious, but it was true! Covered in the dressing they no longer stung! With my joyously un-gloved hands I laid the leaves on a paper lined baking sheet and put them in the oven. After about 15 minutes, I flipped them all over and then, watching them carefully (after having incinerated more than one batch of kale crisps in my time), let them bake another 15 minutes until they were crisp.
Tasting them for the first time was an odd experience. I knew they’d be fine to eat, but still my old fears of eating nettles emerged for one last flutter. Then I tried them, and my oh my, they are lovely. The tahini lime dressing was really nice, giving them an earthy, nearly bitter flavour, and they were magnificently crisp. Most surprisingly, they were so moreish that I had to restrain myself from gobbling down the whole lot before I’d had a chance to photograph them.
If this was not enough to convince me, a look at the seriously hefty health credentials of nettles certainly would have been. There’s a really great article about it here on Mother Earth News (a great website for all kinds of things), but in short, they contain significant amounts of iron and calcium, vitamin A and K, and fiber. They have anti-inflammatory properties, are effective at treating skin conditions such as eczema, are a diuretic and can help to treat urinary tract infections, as well as being useful in helping to treat coughs, colds, and throat infections! Who knew that all of these benefits have been right in front of us, growing in our gardens in that irritating “weed” that stings your ankles if you’re wearing sandals!
I am a convert. Nettles are amazing, and I am certainly going to reap the benefits of this super nutritious free food source while it’s in season. I’ve already got a few recipes that I can’t wait to try! But until then I’ll be munching away on more nettle crisps!
- 25g or about 2 cups fresh nettle young nettle leaves, rinsed in cold water and trimmed of stalks
- 1 Tbsp tahini
- 1 tsp oil
- Zest of lime and juice of half.
- A good grind of black pepper
- Sea salt flakes to taste
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
- In a small bowl combine the tahini, oil, and lime and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste, making sure to stir in any additions of salt and pepper well so that the dressing is evenly combined.
- Wearing gloves, place the nettles in a large bowl and pour over the dressing. Gently stir until the leaves are evenly covered. At this point you should be able to handle the nettles without gloves if you’d like.
- Arrange the coated leaves on the baking sheet in one layer, and place them in the oven. Leave to bake for about 15 minutes.
- Remove the tray from the oven and carefully flip all of the leaves over before returning it to the oven. Leave to bake for about 15 minutes more, checking very frequently. At this stage they can burn quickly. When the leaves are crispy and the dressing golden brown, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool completely. Store in an air tight container at room temperature.