Handcut Nettle Noodles

Blah blah blah about how stinging nettles are a mineral-rich herbal delight growing freely as a weed which cure a myriad of complaints. Blah blah diuretic, astringent and a blood building hormone balancer. Read Wikipedia or whatever.

Honestly, this time I was just thinking about how good stinging nettles would be, rolled into handcut noodles and slathered in the precious sour cream I knew we had in the cabin and sprinkled with Three Stone walnuts. Everyone else seemed to have their own response to the concept.

This is Dad: "You're eating WHAT?! Doesn't that stuff sting? Honestly, Anne. There are grocery stores."

Dad, its like sauteed spinach, only way tastier. Dad, this fancy restaurant in town uses it as a pizza topper. Dad, I read that this lady suggests topping it with eggs and I can't even deal with how good that sounds. This is a veggie-that's-an-herb-that's-a-veggie. Its ridic, Dad.

This is the kid: "Let's go sting ourselves AGAIN!"

It's true: I egged my kid on until he willingly touched the stinging hairs on the undersides of the leaves. Then, we quickly chewed up plantain leaves and spat the hasty poultice on our sores. The pain subsided. Magic which involves parentally-condoned spitting? Winning.

Have you tried this before? Stinging nettles grow basically everywhere. I've personally seen them on three continents and I wasn't even trying. Check creekside or in the forest. Failing those places, check the web. Once I noticed some lady on craigstlist offering her roadside nettle bounty for free to whomever had gloves and a free Saturday to collect it.

The recipe below is easy and forgiving. I've provided an easy sauce using what I had in the cabin. It isn't gourmet or anything, but it was yummy. That said, don't feel compelled to make a trip to the store to make this cheater cream sauce. Butter and salt and maybe some sauteed garlic and you're done, if you want.

Harvesting and Cooking Stinging Nettles

Use only the freshest, brighter green tips, the top cluster of leaves or so. Below that can be fibrous. Wear gloves or cover hands with a dish towel. If you get stung, it isn't that bad. In fact, the formic acid in the sting can be medicinal for arthritic conditions.

Rinse in cool water. Steam-stir fry with a clove of smashed garlic in a tiny bit of water (no oil) over medium heat, covered. It will cook down quickly, like spinach. Discard garlic or reserve for sauce and chop nettle finely. (Optionally, stop here. This alone makes a delicious side dish.)

Stinging Nettle Pasta

Combine 1 cup of chopped cooked nettles, drained, with 2 eggs.

Mix 2 1/2 C flour with 1 tsp salt. Make a well in the center of the flour and add nettle mixture. Stir and knead (adding extra flour as needed) until well combined and no longer sticky. Cover with a damp towel and allow to rest for 1/2 hour.

Roll out and cut into desired noodle shape. Sprinkle well with flour if you don't intend to use it right away.

Cook until tender in boiling water. Drain, reserving some liquid for the sauce.

Easy Sauce: Saute diced onion in a nonstick frying pan. Add minced garlic reserved from cooking the nettle. Add cooked pasta and stir in approximately 1 cup sour cream. Thin the sauce as desired with starchy pasta water. Salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with walnuts. Serve immediately.