Stinging Nettles and Dead Nettles…both good for eating!
I’ve had a fascination for foraging since I was little, not that I remember being very impressed by my older brother’s offering of steamed stinging nettles…they were probably mature leaves rather than young so seemed a bit strong!
On his ‘Jamie at Home’ programme, I think Jamie Oliver was a bit muddled about Stinging Nettles & Dead Nettles and gave the impression that Dead Nettles were the young version of Stinging Nettles. They’re not, but you can eat both. Dead Nettles (also known as Archangel, with either white or pink flowers) are part of the mint family, though their leaves have similarities with Stinging Nettles so it’s easy to forgive Jamie (apart from the fact that he seems such a genuine person)!
A friend made nettle omelette for us on a day last year when the garden was a better source of greens than the fridge! I enjoyed the slight rasping texture of the finely chopped nettles with the delicate softness of the egg. He used tender young Stinging Nettles (pick with gloves to avoid being stung…once blanched they don’t sting).
Seeing beautiful Dead Nettles growing at the bottom of the garden a couple of weeks ago (pictured), I picked some tops & flowers from them and added them raw to a salad. They were pleasant and pretty and if you nibble the base of the flowers you taste the sweet nectar the butterflies love. I haven’t tried any other Dead Nettle recipes yet but as it’s spring and Stinging Nettles are at their best, I’m planning to make Giorgio Locatelli’s simple Nettle Risotto (Risotto alle Ortiche), topped with deep-fried nettles featured in his Made in Italy Food & Stories book. I’ll let you know how it goes.
In the meantime, if you’ve had any nettle experiences – good or bad – feel free to share!