Monday, May 17, 2010

Harmony Valley, Are You Trying to Kill Me?

Harmony Valley Farm has never before given me any indication that they wanted me to be sick, hurt, or dead. So then why did they fill my CSA box with stinging nettle? We’re talking about a noxious weed that, when touched, retaliates with pain, itching, and blisters.

OK, OK. I know that Harmony Valley just thinks weird vegetables are fun. They like to grow new things. They like to try feeding these things to their customers—their newsletter even has handy tips on how to make pesto and pasta and soup with their new little friend. Hmmph. Next I suppose they’ll ask me if I want to play fetch with their pet alligator.

Well I want revenge. The only way I’ll be satisfied is to invent a more exciting recipe than what they came up with–and I have done it! I thought and thought until I realized this problem may have been solved before. My idea comes from an area of vague overlap between Mexican and East Asian cooking. The magic solution is, indeed, a solution: I will quick-pickle these little demons.

A Mexican cook would probably wait only an hour or so before serving this nettle recipe. A Japanese, Korean, or Chinese cook might wait one to three days. Any of those people would have put in hot peppers, garlic, ginger, or other seasonings, too; but I was interested in the pure nettle flavor. It’s a surprisingly complex taste: an initial pleasant pickle sourness broadens and mellows into a flavor that’s slightly nutty, slightly musky, slightly minerally. These would make a great taco with queso blanco, or a condiment for black bean soup, or for plain rice, or even for sushi.

Take that, Harmony Valley!

Pickled Stinging Nettles
They won’t sting anymore after you do this to them.

⅔ c vinegar – I used rice, but you could use white or apple cider too
1 T salt
2 T sugar
2 qt stinging nettle leaves – the bundle from a Harmony Valley CSA is just right

Pick the nettle leaves off their stems (wear gloves unless you like weeping sores), wash them, and spin them dry in a salad spinner.

Put the vinegar, salt, and sugar in a 2-quart saucepan, cover, and bring to a boil. Stuff the nettle leaves in the pan, clap the lid on, and return to a boil—this will only take a few seconds. Take the pan off the heat and stir the nettles so they all get dunked in the vinegar. Put the lid back on and allow them to stand for a few minutes until they have reduced in volume and are covered with the liquid.

Pack the nettles into a clean half-pint jar, pour on the vinegar, and screw on the lid. (I wrap the lid in plastic wrap to keep the metal from corroding.) Store in the refrigerator until ready to eat. I wouldn’t keep them more than a week or two; I don’t think long-term storage is going to be a big problem. Because, you know, yum.


  1. You are brave. I've got a yard full of nettles and I won't touch'em.

  2. Hey, Susan -

    I won't go near what's growing in my alley, either, because who knows what's been sprayed there?!

    Gloves are the answer.

  3. Glad I saw this on today. We are also HVF CSA customers (new this yr) and got the nettles last week. I boiled them for 2 minutes and then squeezed/chopped (basically just like spinach) and made the Nettle Frittata recipe that came with the HVF cheese share. It was pretty good. But they were a weird addition to the box share I thought.

  4. Hey, Mark -

    Hmm, a frittata sounds good too... did you still have nettles left, then, after you made it?

  5. No, I used the whole bunch from the CSA in the frittata. Actually, that bunch, when blanched and squeezed prob yielded about 1/2c-3/4 c. chopped - just like spinach is just shrunk. Added 1 c. of the chives, the green garlic and garlic brebis cheese too. I was so proud - since making it used up lots of the veggies. I find that the first CSA boxes (not just HVF - all CSA's I have had) are so loaded with greens, herbs etc. that we don't get to as many as I would like. I prefer the later summer ones, with cukes, zucc., berries, etc. I am better at using those up.

    I enjoyed the experience - but don't think I will be a nettles 'super-fan' any day. Are you at the Linden Hills location too (which is actually in Fulton neighborhood but whatever...)? How long have you been with HVF?

  6. I am in the Kingfield neighborhood and share with a neighbor household. Last year I was the lucky recipient of a few vacationers' boxes, and my neighbors gave me a lot of what they couldn't eat. This year I am bona fide on the list!

    The nice thing about getting greens is you can eat tons in one meal. Last night I stir-fried the garlic, chives, and hon... sai? hon thing? whatever. Three in one!

  7. Loved your post!! I am a HVF customer as well; however I'm on the 'flex plan' and didn't have a share last week. I think I'm adventurous, however honestly, I don't think I could sell "Stinging Nettle Pasta" to my husband. :)

  8. Your husband would never know they were stinging nettles if you didn't tell him. You could just say it was 'herb pasta' and you wouldn't even be lying.


Thanks for your comments - nothing scatological, please. If you wouldn't bring it in the kitchen, please don't say it here.