Stinging Nettle Recipe
Another event brought me back to Harriton House last weekend. This time it was the Harriton Plantation Fair and featured horseback rides, sheep herding, Pennsylvania Dutch barbecue, music, log cutting and the infamous Stinging Nettle Eating Contest.
Rose Bochansky, the assistant to Curator Bruce Gill, thought up this event and was one of the 5 contestants. Being a vegetarian, I think Rose thought she was a lock to win, but Rose had no idea that my friend Barbecue Bob, that meat-eating gourmand was going to show her how to wolf down a pile of stinging nettles and win the first place prize, a case of beer. (Photo is of Rose and Bob extracting honey from honey bee combs back at the end of July.)
Stinging nettle (or should I say Urtica dioica) is an herbaceous flowering plant that can be found in Europe, Asia, Africa and Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. It is covered with tiny little hairs that act as needles that release a toxin when penetrating the skin. The toxin is harmless but burns at first and causes a nasty itch afterwards.
Why Eat Stinging Nettles
Not that I’m recommending you eat them raw, but stinging nettle has been used by many cultures as an herbal medicine. Because they are rich in calcium and iron, nettle is often used to make soups. (See www.umm.edu) Supposedly, when you cook the leaves, the stinging hairs are disabled.
Some people dry the leaves, crush them and use them for making tea. I have also heard young plants with new leaves are more tasty than older plants. The leaves I tried after the contest tasted like raw string beans. And yes they did sting my hand but not my mouth.