WildSnow backcountry field office is a powder blanketed play land in winter. Come spring it turns into a lush alpine park. The aspen forests are carpeted with four foot fiddle ferns. Higher up, you’ll find fields of raspberries and wild flowers.
One day I recklessly hiked through the woods in sandals. The next week I was plagued by itchy welts from stinging nettles. As I was searching the internet for remedies to alleviate the persistent irritant, I came across quite a few recipes. I’d heard of nettle tea but was intrigued to find directions for everything from nettle schnapps to stinging nettle pizza. There’s even a raw nettle eating contest in England every year (no mouth numbing substances are permitted — although a swig of beer in between mouthfuls is allowed). I decided to try something a bit tamer: stinging nettle pasta.
Having never made pasta before, I went to our local consignment store and scored an almost new, Italian made Atlas pasta machine for $12 (MSRP over $60). Taking that as a good omen, I gathered a bag of nettles a few days later. At 4:00 p.m. I started working in the kitchen on a day when when our friend, Joe Risi, was around. Tapping into his Italian roots, he answered questions when I was stumped by the directions. He didn’t seem too excited to join us for dinner but by 6:00 I coaxed him and Lou to sit down. By 7:00 the plates were clean and no one’s throat had closed up. Experiment successful!
Stinging Nettle Pasta
2 cups chopped nettles
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon water
1/8 teaspoon salt
Nettles are ten percent protein with high levels of calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium. They’re also a good source of vitamin C, beta-carotene, B complex and easily absorbable amino acids. Stinging nettle is said to be one of the most powerful wild foods, full with iron, magnesium and silicon. Some folks juice them and add them to smoothies, and the sting is said to enhance the intimate love experience in certain poorly understood and difficult to research ways.
Sources on the internet praised nettles for stabilizing blood sugar; enhancing the operation of the circulatory, immune, endocrine, and nervous systems; reducing fatigue and exhaustion; and eliminating chronic headaches. Quite impressive for something which I thought was just an annoying weed. Maybe I’ll try a smoothie next.