Some people just don’t get foraging. Blinkered by celebrity survivalists eating questionable things as a stunt, or cliché-riddled perceptions of hippies with flowers in their hair (we love you, hippies - you are our people), the go-to sneer for cynics always seems to about bloody nettles. Nettles. Those perennial so-called weeds that we are warned about from such a young age are always used as a stick to bash foragers with as if it is totally absurd that we eat such a maligned plant. This is where foraging smugness steps in. Not only are nettles free, common, abundant and easily identified, they are also incredibly good for you, versatile and delicious. Often used in place of spinach but offering so much more in terms of complexity of flavour and nutrition, they will happily sit anywhere on the bitter-sweet spectrum and are a great ingredient for cordials, beers, hearty stews and everything in between.
You may be pleased to hear that we haven’t got any plans to send out something that will sting you upon opening your box any time soon, so don’t expect any fresh nettles from us. Besides, nettles are a great beginners plant to begin any foraging adventure with - it would be hard to think of a more commonly recognised plant in the UK - and not imaginative enough to warrant replacing our more interesting fresh ingredients with. So for our first nettle product, we have created Nettle Matcha, which is a great way of preserving its distinct ‘iron’ flavour whilst hanging on to all the nutrional value that nettles are renowned for. It is a fine powder that can be enjoyed as a hot drink by mixing in boiled water, or as a key ingredient in a sweet or savoury dish.
Let’s get one thing clear before we suggest better ways to serve this amazing product: if you want the maximum health benefits, it isn’t going to taste that great. It’s fine, but enjoying it mixed into hot water alone is done purely for the nutrient injection, rather than the taste sensation. Try it instead incorporated into an oily sauce, rolled into pasta dough or iced on top of a cake (bit of icing sugar, bit of lemon/apple juice, bit of nettle matcha). It’s very versatile so let your imagination do the work! Don’t worry - however you decide to prepare it, the notorious ‘stinging’ characteristic of the plant is removed through the drying and powdering process.
If you decide to pick nettles for yourself (you definitely should), avoid dog-walking hotspots and any questionable waste ground - stinging nettles love freshly disturbed soil but have a tendency to absorb pollutants from the earth they grow in. It sounds obvious to say that wild food picked from a lush woodland edge rather than a building site is better for you, but it’s certainly worth a gentle reminder every now and again.