At the beginning of each spring, grandpa would head to the woods near the village to forage one of the first spring greens to appear: stinging nettles. Despite the stinging, he would always pick them up with no gloves on as touching the plant bare-handed “helped with rheumatism”, according to grandpa.
The harvested young nettle plants would then get a good clean from grandma who would blanch and saute them with a bit of oil and a good amount of garlic. And this is how one of the most amazing dishes of my childhood was made. Garlicky nettles stew with polenta and sunny side up eggs, pure bliss!
And guess what! Grandpa was right regarding the health-related properties of the nettle! The nettle plant is not only used to treat arthritis and relieve sore muscles through urtification, but some studies have shown that consuming nettle leaf can also be compared to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) therapy. And not to mention that they are rich in iron which makes them a perfect remedy for anemia.
What you will need for this nettles stew:
250 – 300 gr fresh nettles
10 – 13 cloves garlic
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon wheat or rice flour – this is added in order to thicken the sauce, I personally prefer the dish with no flour as it’s not too watery or I add just 1/2 tbsp rice flour
a pair of gloves
salt & pepper to taste
- Clean the nettles thoroughly using a pair of gloves.
- Rinse them a few times with cold water.
- Blanch the nettles in boiling water for 3-4 minutes, then place them under cold running water to stop the cooking process. Drain well. Save a cup of the water in which the nettles have cooked. Note: If you like the taste, you can keep the nettle water and drink it to enjoy the health benefits of this plant.
- Use a blender to puree the blanched nettles. (You could also chop them on a cutting board instead.)
- Crush and chop a few of the garlic cloves (3-4) and lightly fry them in the vegetable oil. Add the flour and mix well.
- Add the nettles to the pan and saute for about 5-10 minutes, adding a bit of the nettle water as needed. Once done, add the rest of the garlic cloves minced. The final result should be a very garlicky stew.
Serve with polenta and fried/poached eggs.