Commonly known as stinging nettle, Urtica dioica has become a trending recipe ingredient, and for good reason. It’s plentiful, has a long growing season, can be used fresh, dry or frozen, tastes like spinach, is rich in chlorophyll, protein, minerals like iron and calcium and even vitamin C. Nettles are a versatile and accessible ‘super-food’ with a long history in herbal lore.

Collect nettle leaves throughout its growing season, from early spring to late fall. They can be used in soups, breads, teas, stews, stuffings, and anywhere one might use cooked spinach. Be creative!

Nettles can be found anywhere, preferring moist habitat like creek-sides and marshes. Be aware nettles can thrive near agribusiness runoff and garbage dumps. Only pick from a pristine location. It is a tall, handsome plant resembling mint, with bright to deep green serated leaves. Always wear gloves. Hair-like filaments covering the entire above-ground portion of the plant will swiftly demonstrate the validity of its common name. Ouch! If that happens, look for plantain leaves that almost always grow nearby. Chew a few and placing on the skin will alleviate the pain. Steaming, cooking and drying nettles neutralize the ‘stingers’.

Ingredients: Serves 6

– 2-3 large handfuls of fresh nettle
– 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

A few sprigs each of marjoram, sage, oregano, thyme, and chives

– 250g plain cream cheese

– ½ cup crumbled feta, aged cheddar, or chevre

– 6 croissants

Method

Preheat oven to 350F. Steam nettles until they look limp but remain a bright green, approximately 3-5 minutes. Finely chop nettles and most of the herbs (keep a few sprigs for presentation). Slice croissants in half and place on cookie sheet. Mix remaining ingredients together. Spoon liberally over croissant halves. Toast uncovered in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until edges are crisp. Transfer to a serving tray and decorate with sprigs. For info on herb identification walks, please contact Sarah at: cellardivas@gmail.com. 

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