This next pantry ingredient I'd like to share is the humble nettle. I had heard for a few years that it makes a great tea, and that it could be used in soups and things, but hadn't ever tried it. Then last year I decided to hack into the nettle patch at my parents' house and tried it out. It is like spicy, peppery spinach. You have to be careful not to get stung when picking them, and then have to either wilt or dry the nettles for safe, non-stinging storage. They have to be cooked to denature the stinging agents, but otherwise can be used in much the same way as spinach.
I have enjoyed getting to know this plant in the last year, and have been out foraging for it while on walks with Little Bit (making sure he is first occupied with something else so he doesn't decide to get involved with the leaves directly.) I have been cooking only with the leaves, but the whole plant, from flowers to roots, are edible.
Here's how I prep it:
1) Pick carefully. I wash the nettles in water with a generous dash of vinegar, trim the leaves off and rinse them, discarding the stems.
2) I tend to steam the leaves until just wilted and then freeze them for future use if I am not planning on using them immediately. Otherwise, once steamed they are ready to use, or you can sauté, stew or boil them directly, depending on how you are going to use them.
I have found that nettles work well in tarts, soups, and pestos to name just a few. Here a some of the recipes from the blog in which I've used nettles:
Roasted Aubergine Soup with a Modified Nettle Harissa
Pumpkin Pasta with Nettle Pesto
Carrot Tart with Nettle and Dandelion Pesto and Wild Flowers