Spring means it’s time to eat your weedies. And by that, I mean stinging nettles, the prickly green that’s suddenly showing up on menus all over the place. What? You’ve never eaten nettles? Well, think of this brilliant wild thing as a kind of spinach, but with a lot more personality. (And tons of vitamins!)
Here are a bunch of cool preparations that might even turn skeptics into nettle fans.
Photo by John Nelson
1. Braised nettles make for a colorful contrast to the bright white, first-of-the-season halibut at Elliott’s Oyster House (above), where chef Robert Spaulding rounds out the stellar plate with tender, giant Corona beans, candied pork belly and a smooth celery root sofrito.
Photo by Mercato Stellina
2. Mercato Stellina’s chef Emran Chowdhury goes green by finishing the outstanding house-made ravioli in a nettle cream and also uses them as a garnish on a smoked bacon pizza. So good!
Photo by Nancy Leson
3. Bar Ferd'nand’s Matt Dillon also serves up a couple options that include a nettle-topped pie, as well as a bowl full of steamed clams and ricotta dumplings.
Photo by Georgia Dahlman
4. Nettles are stirred into the creamy risotto at Terra Plata, and they’re infused in vodka that bar manager Georgia Dahlman turns into a cocktail aptly called the Spring Fling. That refreshing sipper builds on the seasonal theme by adding creme de violette, fresh squeezed lemon juice, cucumber simple and Sun Liquor’s rhubarb bitters. Yes, please!
Photo by Cody Goodwin
5. Chelsea Farms Oyster Bar in Olympia uses a nettle puree as a vibrant platform for its salmon crudo.
Photo via The Herbfarm on Facebook
6. Chef Chris Weber and his culinary team at The Herbfarm takes the cake, though, for the most off-beat preparation, serving a yogurt-nettle panna cotta as part of its current Chambers of the Sea menu.
7. Mike Easton is another nettles enthusiast who loves partnering them with cream. This week, at Il Corvo, a garlicky nettle cream sauce will be tossed with fresh rigatoni.
8. Many years later, people still fondly recall the fried oysters on a vibrant nettle puree chef Greg Atkinson created for a Chef A’field dinner. (“Oyster” Bill Whitbeck even sent me the treasured recipe.) This season, at Atkinson’s awesome Restaurant Marche on Bainbridge Island, he’s featuring a puréed nettle, leek, and Yukon gold potato soup finished with créme frâiche and spring blossoms. Sounds like the perfect start to a meal that really should include the best veggie plate on the West Coast.
Looking for more on northwest nettles? A few years ago, local forager and author Langdon Cook ventured out to show us how to harvest the nettle. Watch below, or read more from the March 2012 issue here.