“Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is the forager’s ‘wild spinach’. Nutritious, mild, and stunningly green, this edible plant is found in the understory of riparian areas and along the edges of meadows and marshes. Stinging nettle’s distribution ranges far and wide across the continental U.S., and, where established, it is likely prolific.”
— Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley, Food for Hunters
Harvesting & Preparing
If you’ve ever brushed against stinging nettle, you know it and you remember it. The burn, caused by chemicals in the tiny hairs that cover the plant, can be felt underneath your skin for hours. Fortunately, blanching the plant neutralizes its sting. What’s left is a healthy, green, wild vegetable that can substitute for cooked spinach in all sorts of recipes.
Wear gloves and use pruning shears to pick young stinging nettle in the spring. When collecting nettle for cooking, account for shrinkage similar to that of spinach.
To prepare stinging nettle, bring a pot of water to a low boil. Blanch stems and leaves in batches for 20–30 seconds, or until stems have wilted and hairs have lost their sting. Plunge blanched nettles in a bowl of ice water and drain. Then squeeze out as much liquid as possible before cooking or storing. Blanched and wrung stinging nettle keeps well in the freezer – use like frozen spinach.
1 stick (8 tablespoons) of salted butter
2 cups of all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon of baking powder
½ cup of grated Parmesan cheese
¾ teaspoon of ground coriander
½ teaspoon of dried dill
½ teaspoon of kosher salt
¼ cup of cold water
3 ounces of blanched and wrung stinging nettles
2–3 ounces smoked wild salmon
1 medium leek, white and light green parts thinly sliced
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra
½ cup sour cream
½ cup heavy whipping cream
Pinch of nutmeg
Cayenne pepper, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Melt butter in 10-inch cast iron skillet. Remove from heat and allow pan to cool until just warm to the touch. Stir in flour, baking powder, Parmesan, salt, coriander, and dill until mixture resembles sand. Stir in cold water, and then, with your fingers, press down on the dough to form a thin crust in the bottom of the pan, working the dough at least 2 inches up the sides.
2. Crimp the edges with a fork. Prick the bottom several times with a fork to prevent rising. Prebake the crust in oven for 15 minutes. Check periodically, and gently poke and pat down any bubbles that form in the crust without breaking it. Remove pan from the oven and set aside. Lower oven temperature to 325˚F.
3. While the crust prebakes, prepare the quiche filling. In a pan, cook sliced leek with oil and a pinch of salt until tender; cover the pan to create steam, which will help speed up cooking. Set cooked leek aside. In a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs and sour cream until smooth. Then stir in heavy cream, ½ teaspoon of salt, nutmeg and cayenne pepper.
4. Break smoked salmon into smaller pieces. Then layer cooked leek, stinging nettles, and smoked salmon inside the prebaked pie crust until you run out. Pour egg mixture over vegetables and salmon. For presentation, keep back a few pieces of salmon, stinging nettle, and leek to float on top of the quiche. Bake for 40–50 minutes, or until the egg in the middle sets; if a toothpick comes out clean when you poke the middle of the quiche, it is done.
5. Allow quiche to cool for at least 5 minutes before slicing. Serve warm with a salad.