With field produce still waiting to be sown, the appearance of wild greens is something to celebrate. With that in mind, the Alderlea Farm is hosting a stinging nettle festival today.
Most of us thing of stinging nettles as an irritant—something to be avoided when walking in the woods—but they’ve long been used as food. If soaked in water or cooked, nettles lose their sting and have a pleasant taste that is not unlike spinach. They are rich in vitamins A and C, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium. In their peak season, stinging nettles contain up to 25% protein (dry weight), which is high for a leafy green vegetable.
Nettles can be used in a variety of recipes, including soup, polenta and pesto. They’re used as flavouring in some varieties of Gouda. In Nepal and in the Kumaon region of Northern India, stinging nettle is known as shishnu. It's cooked with Indian spices and is a very popular component of the local cuisine.
I will confess that I rarely cook nettles, and then only in soup, but I would be interested to learn more about preparing them. I’m unable to attend the festival today, but I do plan on visiting the farm later in the week in the hope that they’ll share some recipes with me.
I admire Alderlea Farm’s creativity in using this seasonal green as a means of drawing people to the farm. If you are interested in attending the stinging nettle festival you can find out more about it by visiting the farm’s website. They’ve posted a schedule of events at http://alderleafarm.wordpress.com/