Whenever I’m explaining the Food Program to new people (both on island and off), I always mention Nettlefest because it’s a Galiano celebration that both mystifies and inspires!
Most people think nettles are a weed, but those of us who are lucky enough to live on Galiano know better! Stinging nettles are among the first edible plants to burst from the ground in the Pacific Northwest. Around Valentine’s Day, sometimes even earlier, green shoots start emerging from the ground, and soon the nettles are everywhere! For me nothing says spring like the arrival of this tasty green plant—free for the foraging. Plus, nettles are good for you, high in Vitamin C and calcium.
When you are picking nettles for cooking, choose the young, tender leaves, usually the top four or six on a plant. Use scissors and you won’t damage the plant. Nettles are delicious—but most first-time nettle eaters are nervous about being stung. Use rubber gloves when you are picking and until the nettles are processed in some way. Once the fresh nettles are steamed, frozen, dried or cooked, the sting is neutralized. There are lots of ways to use nettles. Some of my favourites are: soup, pizza, nettle pakora, and a green nettle ravioli pasta.