The Good Sting
I remember nettles from my childhood and not in a fond way. I remember those sneaky low lying plants stinging my bare legs even more than the mosquito bites that were incessant in Saskatchewan. Growing up, my grandmother told me “you can eat those nettles”! I thought for certain this was another one of her leg-pulling, dry wit, French antics. Years later I discovered it certainly was not! As it turns out, it is in fact worth battling the prickly exterior of these plants each spring to enjoy their robust spinach-like flavor.
Foraging, isn’t that a great word and past time? Nettles are one the first things to pop up for consumption after the dark days of winter and are best foraged wild from the woods. They come to us as a gift of nourishment to help us cleanse after the winters heavier foods. Similar to wild leeks (ramps), fiddleheads and dandelions they offer a healthy dose of minerals and enzymes for our digestive system. Nettles help us flush out the old and bring in the new.
The best way to consume these little stingers is not without some care and know-how. Always wear gloves while handling raw nettles! They are best served as a tea, (I think a tad boring but excellent if you happen to be in spring cleansing mode) or use nettles like you would spinach, gently sautéing them and adding them to perhaps an omelet. My absolute favorite is to prepare a nettle and leek soup. Nettle soup is not only incredibly healthy but also tremendously tasty! It is at the top of my soup repertoire and I enjoy making it every spring.
Wine with soup is a somewhat tricky pairing because soup coats the tongue in such a way it can be hard for wine to penetrate beyond that. That said, wine with soup is certainly doable and enjoyable. I find with this light, green and very fresh soup it makes sense to have a similar style wine. Sometimes in pairing we go for opposites to balance food and wine characteristics and sometimes we match them.
I’ve opened a benchmark from Marlborough New Zealand and it is a perfect match; Auntsfeild 2014 single vineyard sauvignon blanc. This wine offers up a healthy dose of citrus and passion fruit along with some herbaceous qualities. It has a decent weight which I like in a sauvignon blanc, otherwise I personally tend to feel too acidic drinking it. Mineral notes offer complexity to this tight-natured and racy wine. I would definitely recommend having a few bottles on hand (chilled of course). The long days of summer are building in North America. Enjoy steeping in the light my friends.