Foraging for tender young Nettle leaves is a rite of passage during the first few warm weekends of the year. They're one of the first nutrient-packed greens to emerge after a long winter, and they're also one of the first crops to be planted on the Gaia Farm. Beyond using them in products, we love to cook with these dark, leafy greens. Historically, Nettles would be used as a spring tonic to gently support the body as it naturally cleansed the waste built up over winter, helping restore our vitality.* An important alternative, Nettles gently support the lymphatic system, enhancing our natural ability to excrete toxins through the kidneys.*
Per cup, Nettles have 37 calories, 6 grams of dietary fiber and 2 grams of protein. They also boast more than 33% of your daily Vitamin A, 8 % of the RDA of iron (twice as much as spinach)- and 42% of your daily calcium.
(Read more about the nutrition of Nettles and 14 ways we bring them into the kitchen!)
Late one Friday afternoon, I headed to the farm to soak up some sunshine. It's a job perk that refuels my creativity and fosters a tremendous sense of gratitude. Our fields of Nettles looked so vibrant that I picked a bunch. (Confession: I forgot my gloves and wimped out. I feared their sting so had him help with the harvest.) I decided to create a festive new recipe to share with our team - and you.
The inspiration for this recipe was the Spinach-Artichoke Dip commonly served at parties and in casual restaurants. In place of spinach, we used our Nettles, which were a perfect match for Artichoke, another spring crop. We lightened up the dish by swapping a blend of almond milk, cashews and nutritional yeast for the dairy, allowing us to keep it both vegan and gluten-free so that all in our office could try it.
The result was a creamy, rich dip that we gobbled up as part of our lunches. Serve this at your next spring party, preferably with an iced nettle tea.
Nutritional yeast is the "secret" ingredient that makes this dairy-free dip so good. A staple in vegan cooking, this deactivated yeast imparts an umami-rich "cheesy" flavor, as well as protein and fiber. Some varieties are also a source of B-complex vitamins. If "nootch," as it's called by its fans, is new to you, pick some up in the bulk bins of your local health-food store or supermarket.
If you can't find Nettles in the wild, check your local co-op. This time of year, many organic grocers will carry small amounts of wild Nettles. (If you're looking for some potent support during pollen season, you can find Nettles in the supplement aisle or in tea form.)
A vegan, gluten-free spin on Spinach-Artichoke Dip, this version features organic Nettles we grew ourselves, plus another spring ingredients like Dill and Artichokes.
Prep Time: 10 min Cook Time: 10 min Total Time: 20 min
- 1 cup raw cashews, soaked in hot water for at least 10 minutes
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon dried dill or 1 teaspoon fresh dill
- 4 cups Nettle leaves, rinsed well and chopped
- 12 ounces artichoke hearts, finely chopped (see note)
- ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Drain cashews, add to a high-speed blender and process until finely chopped.
- Add ½ cup water and lemon juice, and blend until completely smooth, about 2 minutes. Pause as needed to scrape down the sides. Set aside.
- Place a medium saucepan over medium heat, and add olive oil when the pan is hot.
- Add garlic, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often.
- Add black pepper, dill, Nettles and artichoke hearts. Stir in ¼ cup water, then cover and raise heat to medium-high. Cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally, until Nettles are vibrant green and tender.
- Reduce heat to medium-low, then stir in cashew mixture, almond milk and nutritional yeast. Cook, stirring often, until mixture is bubbling and thickens slightly, about 3 minutes.
- Remove from heat, stir in salt and season to taste as needed.
- Serve immediately, with whole-grain crackers, crudités and halved grape tomatoes.
We used thawed frozen artichokes. If you use canned, choose those packed in water, and be sure to drain and rinse them well.