Sting, But No Bite

Stinging nettles do not sound like something any non-masochistic person would want to munch on, yet they are a springtime delicacy in the culinary world and appear on local menus as soon as they pop out of the ground. The stinging nettle is a hearty plant that grows wild in temperate climates with rich, moist soil. Its leaves contain tiny, spiky hairs that, when touched, or brushed up against, release chemicals that cause itching and irritation to the skin. When nettles are cooked, however, their chemical potency is diminished and what remains is an edible, hearty, spinach-like green that is packed with vitamins, antioxidants and protein. Nettles can be used in place of spinach or chard in most recipes and is often found in dishes like soups, pastas and even tea.

I have eaten nettles in restaurants in the past, but quite frankly they never leave much of an impression on me and I can't usually recall what they taste like shortly after I've had them. They are so popular, however, that when I noticed them at the farmer's market yesterday, I decided to pick up a bag and give them another try. I asked the woman selling the nettles how she recommended I cook them (they cost $10.00 a pound and I wanted to be sure I did this right,) and she suggested that I saute them with garlic and serve them on a pizza with some good ricotta cheese. So that was my plan.

Having been warned repeatedly not to handle the nettles with my bare hands, I donned a pair of gardening gloves and got to work removing the tender leaves from their tough stems. If I were going to puree the greens for a soup that would be strained, I would have left the stems intact, but after cooking up a test batch with the stems on, I decided that trying to gnaw through them was more trouble than it was worth.

Once cooked, I found the taste of the nettles to be somewhat unremarkable, yet again. They were similar to spinach, but, oddly enough, had a strange, subtle flavor that can only be described as fishy. The texture, although washed three times, was a little gritty (which I later learned comes from their minute, aphid looking flowers) and I had a hard time getting past that. Before I passed a final judgement, however, I decided to try them on pizza with some goat cheese, green garlic and speck.

The nettles fared better on the pizza than on their own but, the flavor was so mild that they didn't really add much bite the way some sweet chard or bitter rapini would have. In fact, my preference for them in that context probably had more to do with the other ingredients on the pizza, than the greens themselves.

All in all, I'm going to have to say that I'm still not sold on stinging nettles. I'll definitely try them next time I see them on the menu at a restaurant, because I really want to understand the hype. Until then, however, I think I'll stick to other, more flavorful and less potentially pain inducing greens.

Browse Culinary Arts Schools & Colleges

Refine School Matches
Hide filters
  • SUBJECT

    See More

  • DEGREE

    See More

  • PROGRAM TYPE

  • START TIME

    LOCATION
    Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.
            Results open in new window

            Searching Searching ...

            Matching School Ads
            5 Program(s) Found
            • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway.
            • Has a team of about 4,000 faculty members focused on helping students tap opportunities in a marketplace driven by ideas.
            • Offers programs in design, media arts, fashion, and culinary.
            • Provides program coordinators who work with students to ensure they have the learning materials, assignments, facilities, and faculty to get the most out of the program.
            • Over 50 campus locations nationwide.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            1 Program(s) Found
            • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • Lets undergrad students try classes before paying any tuition.
            • Has an average class sizes of 18 for undergraduate and 13 for graduate-level courses.
            • Offers numerous scholarship opportunities that can help students save up to $750 per term on their tuition.
            • Tends to educate degree-seeking online and campus-based students who are adult learners with families and students who work while pursuing higher education.
            Show more [+]
            • Online Courses
            • Financial Aid
            5 Program(s) Found
            • Received the 2013 “Cooking School of the Year” Award of Excellence from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
            • Externship opportunities are available at numerous famous New York City restaurants.
            • Campus is located near downtown Manhattan, within walking distance of many popular attractions such as the Radio City Music Hall.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            3 Program(s) Found
            • Culinary Arts program includes the 3-week Farm To Table® Experience, where students gain a direct, in-depth look at where food comes from.
            • Numerous scholarship opportunities and financial aid are available to students who qualify.
            • Accreditation from the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET), and the Council on Occupational Education (COE).
            • 2 campuses located in Boulder, Colorado and Austin, Texas.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            4 Program(s) Found
            Virginia College , Jacksonville
            • Instructors are typically real-world professionals with many years of experience in their career fields.
            • Ranked #3 in Best for Vets: Career & Technical Colleges 2014 by Military Times.
            • Presents the full tuition cost up front. In most cases, even textbooks are included in the total price.
            • Provides career services associates to help students review their resume, provide career counseling, help with job searches, and more.
            • Has 27 campus locations across the southern United States, plus offers online degree programs.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            1 Program(s) Found
            • Preparing individuals for career opportunities, technology training, and certifications for the medical, culinary arts, HVAC repair, legal, and cosmetology fields since 1934.
            • Has many lecture classes with a maximum of a 30:1 student to teacher ratio, and most lab classes with a maximum of an 18:1 student to teacher ratio.
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Council of Independent Colleges and Schools.
            • Has locations in Dearborn, Farmington Hills, Lansing, Madison Heights, Roseville, Saginaw, Southgate, Waterford-Pontiac and Wayne-Westland.
            Show more [+]
            • Financial Aid
            2 Program(s) Found
            • Ranked among the Best Colleges in the South in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • Ranked the 13th  Best College for Veterans in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • A private institution founded in 1977 with a current total undergraduate enrollment of over 15,00.
            • Its student-faculty ratio is 11:1, and 89.3% of classes have fewer than 20 students.
            • Has students attend one class at a time to ensure easy access to faculty and a more hands-on education.
            Show more [+]