Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Stinging Nettle & Garlic Puree: Putting Up a Bit of Spring

I'm not really a fan of the summer months. I know that's probably perplexing, and maybe a bit difficult to believe. But, the truth is, I'm not great with heat and humidity,  I'm a far bigger fan of the spring and autumn, when cooler winds blow and the sun flits her lashes at us a bit more demurely.

But I reallyreallyreally love the process of stuffing our coffers with all the delicious flavors that summertime offers. And I get a serious kick out of bringing a creative spin to all the delicious foodstuffs we decide to "put up."

Last year we started our preserving adventures somewhere in mid to late summer.  We froze Door County peaches and we made both pickled and candied jalapeno peppers. We perfected our tomatillo salsa and stockpiled both roasted red and poblano peppers. We managed to put up enough fruit to get us through the winter without buying very much at all, except a few errant bunches of bananas for our morning smoothies. And we enjoyed fresh-frozen pesto right up through the first weeks in June. But, this year, I wanted to begin the adventures sooner.  After all, there are a great many early summer delights that can be harvested and preserved.

I've been inspired for years by the foraging prowess of Langdon Cook, Pacific Northwest resident, foraging expert, published author and blogger at Fat of the Land.   Although Langdon presents a phenomenally wide repertoire of both adventures and recipes, I've been most inspired by some of this writings on stinging nettles.  His love for these humble weeds made me anxious to find some of my very own.  And I can report success this summer, thanks to Dave Swanson of Braise and the amazing farmers over at Keewaydin Organic Farm in Viola, Wisconsin.

This year I was the proud recipient of just over 2 pounds of fresh stinging nettles.I was almost giddy as I slipped on a pair of latex gloves in preparation to wash and trim my nettles.
 I had no idea what to expect from these ultra-green, nutrient packed weeds.  I knew that a handful of nettles provides more than 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A, as well as a plethora of minerals  I also knew that they made a power-packed, if somewhat unappealing, tea.  But I wondered after their flavor. Was it earthy?  Woodsy?  Interminably chlorophyllic?

Since nettles must be blanched to rid them of their infamous stinging barbs, we brought a large pot of cold water to a rolling boil and began the process.

We blanced and chopped and pulsed and blended.  And we ended up with a delicious and pesto-like nettle and green garlic paste, which I could easily freeze in manageable portions for use all winter long.
I foresee mixing the nettle paste with pasta and whole toasted pine nuts for a delicious weeknight meal, spreading the past on pizza, and adding dollops of it to soups, risottos, and scrambled eggs on lazy February weekends.

It was a simple thing. But, it made me oh-so-very happy.
I can't wait to see what we'll put up next.

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Want more? Read Lo's latest ruminations at DEVOUR Milwaukee, her Milwaukee Magazine blog.


  1. I've never tried stinging nettles but have heard rave reviews. This looks so herbily yummy and can't wait to see how you use it through the winter.

  2. Interminably chlorophyllic? My new favorite band name...

    The first time I actually ate nettle was with you guys, herbaceous and greeny, yes. Too bad I don't still live rurally where nettles were everywhere for the foraging, (we certainly didn't cultivate them) and the horses loved them. The animals do sometimes seem smarter than we do, and I should have taken advantage when I had the chance!

  3. Whoa! I had no idea that nettles were such a superfood! Definitely need to try to get my hands on some of them!

  4. Funny we both wrote about preserving at the same time. I'm with you, lets be done with these hot humid days! I'm a big fan of needles in pasta though the best way I ever had them was on a pizza, so good.

  5. This is great! I am trying to start my preserving earlier this year too! Hopefully today with picking shelling peas at our CSA!


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