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Guest Author | 02/05/2024 | Outdoor Recreation

Corvallis Spring Foraging Opportunities: Nettles

After Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow and the inevitable extension of winter in Oregon takes place, daffodils and crocus begin to push up out of the ground, showing budding signs of optimism that can mean only one thing: nettles are out! Okay, so it also means that spring is near. The late winter downpours and warmer climate encourage lots of green growth, including the kind of plants with annoying syringe-like trichomes filled with histamine and other irritating compounds that can cause visible welts on the skin and painful stings.

Though mostly known for their negative attributes, nettles are underrated. Cooked nettles resemble flavors of sweet spinach when prepared properly.

Wild-harvesting nettles takes a little care to conduct without stinging yourself. To harvest them efficiently and effectively, you'll need a good pair of solidly constructed gloves made with something like thick latex rubber or leather, a pair of long scissors and a container they will not able to sting through, like a tupperware or small bucket. Hold it below the plant and trim the leaves directly into the container.

You'll find them growing just about anywhere near a body of water. Corvallis has an extensive list of natural areas on the map set aside for outdoor recreation, most located along the banks of the Willamette, Mary's, or Calapooia Rivers, which are great places to look. More remote areas like the Little Luckiamute or Alsea are also good places to check.

Early spring is the best time to pick them as the leaves are very tender and full of flavor. If you trim the top, the rest of the plant will bush back out.

Keeping them in a paper bag in the fridge will help keep them fresh for when you are ready to cook with them. You can also dry them and use them at a later date.

When you're ready to bring the nettles into the kitchen, put some olive oil or butter along with enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. The steam will melt the trichomes and dissolve the irritants from the plant's natural defenses. You can then use them in just about any dish you would normally add sauteed greens. Other culinary uses for the plant include tea, soup, pesto and even flavoring beer. Nettles are high in calcium, vitamin A, C, iron, manganese and potassium, much like spinach and other leafy greens.

Happy harvesting, rain or shine!

Article by Randall Bonner. Photo by Skalle-Per Hedenhös, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link. Keep up with Corvallis news, events and happenings by signing up for our email newsletter.

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