Cooking with Invasive (and over-abundances): Stinging Nettle Pizza
by libby rhodes, august 2021
Stinging Nettle is a magic plant. Many people have a hard time believing this due to its nasty bite, but even that is a blessing in disguise. Historically nettle has been beat against joints riddled with arthritis to, ironically, reduce swelling and one of our friends from the CSA informed us he has had success using it to burn out poison ivy from his skin! We wanted to share the love and knowledge of this crazy abundant fast spreading plant with the rest of the community seeing its medicine is hiding right under our noses. Once cooked, nettle looses its sting- but we are well aware people are still wary. So what's a better way to convince people to try our friend nettle than to put it on a comfort, classic- food, pizza!
Roughly 1 cup of chopped stinging nettle
Other pizza toppings!
Using gloves, harvest stinging nettle leaves. Preferably do so before they go to flower. Bring home and wash thoroughly.
Blanch the nettle for 30 seconds in boiling water.
Sauté in olive oil until cooked and season, the sting disappears once cooked so do not fret about being stung.
Prepare pizza using your favorite recipe, we recommend Margarita, seeing the fresh tomatoes and mozzarella complement the nettle nicely.
You can either add sautéed nettle before cooking and utilize like basil or spinach, or pop on pizza during the last 5 minutes of cooking.
We are not pizza makers. Unfortunately our cooking skills are limited to using pre-made dough, sauce, and cheese. However, we have learned how wary CSA members can be of trying new plants, and seeing stinging nettles infamous reputation and off-putting name, we figured using a food universally loved would be a promising way to get people to try a plant they might not otherwise. The flavors of nettle shine through, in my opinion, better in other recipes such as tea or soup but if you are a little hesitant to try the plant known for its sting, this pizza is for you.
What is Stinging Nettle?
Stinging Nettle is the original enemies-to-lovers plant. You may be familiar with their painful needle like stings that happen from rubbing against the plant. Stinging nettle, or Urtica dioica, úrere, meaning “to burn”. Dioica means dioecious. This sting is caused by a small hairs on the stem, that have tiny balls of a chemical called( same as ant sting) that break and rub off on skin causing irritation. It was originally native to Europe but as since become naturalized in the Americas. Although it is not native, it is not invasive. However, because nettle spreads through rhizomes, it can be an incredibly aggressive plant that can quickly dominate entire forest areas and outcompete other important species.
How to identify:
Easiest way to check: go on, grab the stem. But if you are maybe not so brave, or what some would call- a sadist, let me teach you how to ID. Stinging nettle grows in dense clusters and stalks can reach from 5-8 feet. These stems appear hairy (those are the stingers!). Leaves are opposite and heart shaped and can be 2-5 inches long. The edges of these leaves are jagged. You may see a different variety of nettle within the woods as well known as wood nettle! This is also an edible nettle with many of the same benefits so feel free to harvest! The difference is that it does have some alternate leafing and the leaf shape is more round.
All three photos are stinging nettle!
All of these photos are wood nettle!
Why to eat, how to eat:
Once cooked, nettle loses its sting. It contains calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, silica, protein as well as vitamins A, C, K and multiple B vitamins. Anywhere you use spinach, you can use nettle. Many people find the leafs lessen seasonal allergies. You can tincture it, make it into tea, make it into pest, or even eat a salad.
Those who knew nettle, loved nettle. As I mentioned earlier one CSA member has used it to rid his body of poison ivy- but also harvests the plant that overtakes his garden to create a fermented tea that he uses as a fertilizer to nourish the other plant friends of his garden. The plants extremely high iron content makes it an amazing treat to perk up leafy greens. One women, accompanied by her elementary aged son told us they have tried absolutely everything. Nettle tea is the only thing that gets rid of her sons awful spring allergies and is an instant cure for headaches.