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Decoding Spring Produce: Stinging Nettles - The Sting

Decoding Spring Produce: Stinging Nettles - The Sting

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The days are getting longer and the weather warmer. Spring is when we start to see a wide variety of fruits and vegetables pop up in supermarkets and farmer's markets. In the coming weeks, we'll be exploring just what kinds of great produce are in season during the spring and summer. We'll also provide some info and tips on selecting the produce as well as a few recipes you can try at home. So let's get started.

Stinging Nettles

There are plenty of things you can buy at a farmer's market that you've never seen or heard of before. Some of them are different varieties of familiar vegetables and fruit. For instance, zebra and beef steak tomatoes aren't among the usual fare in supermarkets. Stinging nettles are one of those foods that you'll look at, pick up, and not know what to do with them. This is mostly because those little stingers can be a bother and turn some people away.

That said, stinging nettles are a great green to start eating. These prickly leaves are extremely high in protein and provide more than 100 percent of your daily allowance of vitamin A. When handling stinging nettles, you'll need gloves or tongs to protect you from the transparent hairs that give these greens their stinging reputation. They're nothing to worry about because the stingers are neutralized once they're cooked. Look for stinging nettles to be at their best from February through April.

Sautéed Stinging Nettles with Garlic

Side dish for grilled or hearty meats
Serves four

  • 1/4 lbs stinging nettles
  • 1 Tbl olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped

1. Using tongs or wearing gloves, clean the stinging nettles in the sink or in large bowl full of cold water.
2. Remove the stinging nettles from the water. Spin them in a salad spinner or drain them in a colander.
3. Preheat a large sauté pan on medium-high heat with oil and chopped garlic.
4. Once the garlic begins to sizzle, add the stinging nettles.
5. The stinging nettles will cook down in size. Continue to cook until some of the moisture from the stinging nettles begins to come out into the pan.
6. Season with salt and pepper before serving.

Tagliatelle with Stinging Nettles and Sausage

Entrée
Serves two

  • 8 oz tagliatelle pasta
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 4 oz Italian sausage, chicken or turkey; sliced
  • 1 oz stinging nettles; cleaned
  • 1/4 cup favorite tomato pasta sauce
  • 1 Tbl olive oil
  • Light pinch red pepper flakes

1. Bring a pot of water with two heavy pinches of salt to a boil.
2. Once the water is up to a rolling boil, drop the pasta into the water. Stir the pasta until the water returns to a rolling boil to prevent sticking.
3. Add the olive oil to a preheated sauté pan on medium-high heat.
4. Sear the Italian sausage in the pan, then remove and place on a clean plate.
5. Add the chopped garlic and stinging nettles to sauté pan. Cook until the stinging nettles are fully wilted.
6. Monitor the pasta and drain when it is cooked al dente.
7. Combine the drained pasta, sautéed stinging nettles, seared Italian sausage, red pepper flakes, and pasta sauce.
8. Bring to a simmer
9. Season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Unfamiliar vegetables can be frustrating at first. The preparation and handling will take practice and patience, but you'll get there. Next time we'll be looking at a vegetable that is more familiar and much easier to handle and prepare.

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