Saturday, May 12, 2012

Faux Spinach With a Mean Streak

If you do not like the taste of spinach, STOP READING NOW, DO NOT READ THE REST OF THIS POST. If you do like the taste of spinach, it is time to pick some weeds. In their raw state, nettles are less than palatable but, once cooked, they lose their sting and gain in flavor. Wood nettle (Laportea canadensis) (pictured at left) is very similar to its better-known "cousin" stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) and they both taste surprisingly like Popeye's preferred performance enhancer. Even so, most people seem to prefer the later due to wood nettles' slight "mucilaginousness". To prepare, harvest the younger leaves from plants that have not yet flowered, place in a cooking pot and cover with cold water. Next, stir gently and remove any bugs that float to the surface (if desired). Drain the water leaving the leaves wet but with no standing water and simmer for about 10 minutes on medium-low heat. You can then just stand by the stove and eat them right out of the pot unless the wife is present, whereas proper plating is prudent (pictured below). While the two varieties do resemble one another they can be easily distinguished. Wood nettle has an alternate leaf arrangement but stinging nettle leaves are borne oppositely. Also, stinging nettle seems to be more commonly found in populated areas while I tend to find wood nettle in less accessible environs. However, the easiest way to tell which one you have found is the "sting test". Stinging nettle will sting at the slightest provocation but wood nettle is somewhat less irascible. Some wood nettle stingers even appear to be totally stingless - Until you lick them...

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