Nature’s Supermarket: Wood Nettle & Stinging Nettle
Both Wood Nettle and Stinging Nettle are edible, nutritious plants you can find in backyards and woodlands. Wood Nettle is native to Eastern and Central North America whereas Stinging Nettle was introduced. Watch the below video to learn how to identify both plants, how to handle them, what to use for cooking, and how to use as fertilizer.
The leaves are edible at any stage of the plants’ growth. Cooking or drying them denatures the sting. They are nice and tender earlier in the season when they’re young. If they have already grown flowers and seeds, they’re still perfectly edible – just pick the smaller leaves near the top. Also, if you want a crop of fresh young leaves, cut the plants back and wait for new growth.
Recommended recipe included below.
Don’t eat any foraged plants that you’re uncertain about.
It is best to harvest plants away from roadsides to avoid contaminants.
Recipe for Stinging Nettles Indian Style:
¼ cup chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour*
2 tbsp Garam Masala
1 tsp salt
½ tsp turmeric
1 cup drained silken tofu
Juice of one lime (2 tbsp)
3 cups water
¼ cup corn oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 small chiles, seeds and ribs removed and chopped
8 cups stinging nettle leaves, chopped
To make the sauce: In a small skillet, toast the chickpea flour over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it is lightly browned and fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes. Immediately remove the flour from the pan and, using a blender, mix the flour with the garam masala, salt, turmeric, tofu, lime juice and water until smooth.
Heat the corn oil in a large skillet over medium heat and cook the garlic chiles, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the nettles and then add the pureed sauce. Bring the pot to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve over rice.
*If unavailable in your grocery store’s baking or gluten-free section, it is available at health food stores like It’s Only Natural Market in Middletown, Indian grocers (also in Middletown) and Ocean State Job Lot (Bob’s Red Mill brand). Or, make your own by grinding ½ cup dried chickpeas in a spice grinder or food processor.
Contributed by Jen Huddleston and Amanda Kenyon.