Stinging Nettle Recipe
Another event brought me back to Harriton House last weekend. This time it was the Harriton Plantation Fair, featuring 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, considered 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.
Stinging nettle (or Urtica dioica) is an herbaceous flowering plant found in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.
It is covered with tiny little hairs acting as needles that release toxins when penetrating the skin. The toxin is harmless but burns at first and causes a nasty itch afterward.
Why Eat Stinging Nettles
I'm not recommending you eat them raw, but many cultures have used stinging nettle as an herbal medicine. Because they are rich in calcium and iron, nettle is often used to make soups. (See Edible Wild Food)
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.
Stinging Nettle Recipe For the Brave of Mouth
- ¼ pound fresh stinging nettles
- 8 ounces pasta
- ½ cup olive oil extra virgin
- ¼ pound fresh ricotta cheese
- 1 lemon for zest and juice
- 1 tablespoon fresh mint chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh parley chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh chives chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 handful fresh sorrel leaves washed and torn into bite sized pieces
- ½ cup walnuts toasted
- Bring two large pots of salted water to a boil. One will be for the pasta and the other for the nettles.
- When the water comes to a boil in one of the pots, "carefully" add the nettles and give them a stir. Cook for 5 minutes and transfer them to a colander with a slotted spoon. You want to leave any dirt or grit in the cooking water. Let the nettle drain.
- Add the pasta to the other pot of clean water and cook until al dente.
- While the pasta is cooking, press most of the water out of the nettles, transfer them to a food processor and puree.
- Drizzle in the olive oil and process until completely smooth.
- Add the ricotta, lemon zest and juice and herbs. Pulse the processor to blend all the ingredients.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Remove a cup of the water the pasta is cooking in and reserve. Drain the pasta and then return it to the pot.
- Toss in the nettle ricotta cheese mixture and stir to combine.
- Add the fresh sorrel and a little of the reserved pasta water to create the desired consistency of the sauce.
- Stir in the walnuts and serve.