Updated: Jul 11, 2020
Sea of green ~ green sea, they do taste of the sea somehow... salty, warm. The saline flavor of a quiet & old ocean.
Urtica dioica or Stinging Nettle, is what is pictured above. A small patch in my garden that grows more voluminous each year. Nettles are one of our early Spring greens & they are so full of that same vibrant urgency of the season. To burst through the soil, to be alive: this is what nettle seems to chant.
If you have ever been "stung" by a Nettle leaf, then perhaps you will know what I mean ! It does tend to make one feel the pangs of being alive quite acutely. Anytime I brush against a Nettle in the wrong way & get a little sting, I become so aware of my body, my presence, & my blood rushing to the scene of the sting. It really is invigorating.
All the same, I think I have maybe only once gathered Nettles with gloves on... I honestly can't remember it, but I must have. I never harvest Nettles with gloves, there is something really special in tenderly gathering them by hand. The type of care & presence & respect is so stunning, & feels like this is such an integral part of the medicine of Nettle. Of course I get stung here & there, but not nearly so often as you'd think. There is definitely an art to it, & if I could offer any advice, it would be to handle them gently, grasping them delicately by the leaf, saying a hello, & snipping the stem quickly. This is honestly such a great plant to learn about ethical, mindful wildcrafting with! We should all practice gathering plants by hand, with such grace & attentiveness ~ especially with the ones who won't sting us back.
Almost 10 years ago now, I arrived at my friend Antti's place on a small island off the archipelago in Southwestern Suomi. I was famished. I had traveled so much (by plane, by foot, by bus, by car to the ferry) & eaten so little. Antti & my friends greeted me with a big bowl of creamy Nettle soup over potatoes... I will never ever forget that meal as long as I live! It was the most delicious thing I had ever had, it was warm & nourishing & vivifying.
After that night, Nettles made it into almost every meal or at least every tisane for the rest of my time in Suomi. One of our go-to's, especially after sauna, was the traditional oven pancake, Pannukakku, infused with fresh Nettles. Pannukakku is a bit like a cross between a crepe & a custard, as it is quite egg-heavy, & so it has this spongey density to its texture that is filling & rich but not so heavy.
This is a super light, super delicious, & really satisfying meal to make at anytime of the day or eve. It is really quick to whip up, yet wonderfully nourishing to eat, so this makes for a great recipe to reach for in a pinch. You can have it as is, or as a side; savory or sweet. They are very versatile so you can add on whatever your pallet pleases. I love Pannukakku with a nice dollop or two of jam, yogurt, or a spoonful of really fresh, good ricotta.
1.5 cups milk
1.5 cups flour
1.5 cups fresh nettles
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 or 1/3 cup melted butter or oil of your choice
*This particular recipe does not include sugar, so if you are craving a sweet oven pancake, add 1/4 cup sugar (or sweetener of your choice) & a good dash of Vanilla extract!
1. Boil some water while you cut off the nettle stems. Place the leaves in a colander & pour boiled water over them to blanch. Give a quick rinse tp the leaves with cold water & chop them up 2. In a large bowl, whisk your milk, eggs, & salt
3. Whisk in flour & baking powder
4. Mix in your melted butter/oil
5. Lastly, mix in your chopped nettles 6. Pour your "dough" into a large, oiled cast iron pan (oven-safe skillet or a baking dish will also work, just be aware that your pannukakku will rise over the edge if not large enough) 7. Bake in a 450 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes ~ until puffy & golden brown on the top
8. Slice while it is still warm, serve as desired, & enjoy ~