Nettles are a pain to cook (see below for my new method), let alone harvest, because they are pokey and stabby until you cook them down. I didn’t grow up with them around, and like most people, I struggled with cleaning and preparing them, leading to situations like this:
Me: I got stabbed through my glove, I’m dying. Kiss it better.
Robin: :looks into the camera like they’re on The Office:
Robin: Pal, I was born in a nettle patch, let me tell you a story. But I will kiss it better.
Robin and I as I’ve said, had really different childhoods: me in the suburbs of the Midwest, they in the rural Pacific Northwest. Our experiences of not just food but gender are also filtered through our birthplaces. Case in point: I’ve been reading Gender Failure by Ivan E. Coyote (pronouns: they/them) and Rae Spoon (pronouns: they/them); both of them have excellent pieces on rural butchness and grappling with toxic masculinities, which are closer to C’s experiences than mine.*
One rural butch story that stuck with me is about “cowboying up,” in which Ivan recounts to their wife Zena the story of how their uncle got in a truck accident in the winter and popped his dislocated shoulder back in (“the butchest thing ever”). Instead of being impressed, Zena tells Ivan that “cowboying up” has a serious impact on men’s health behavior (171). In this chapter, Ivan writes about learning address toxic masculinities by “cowboying down”—taking time for self care and not pushing physical limits—to heal after top surgery.
We can handle nettles by taking a page from Ivan and “cowboying down,” because instead of getting stabbed for 30 minutes through my gloves, for this recipe, we’re going to blanch the nettles first, then trim the stems with kitchen scissors. Why? Because I don’t have to prove my butchness to some goddamn weeds I’m about to eat.
(Also, if you’re also pissed off by all the cis tears in “My Daughter isn’t Transgender. She’s a Tomboy,” please read Gender Failure, written by actual trans folks discussing trans masculinities, butchness, nonbinary issues, and using singular they.)
Garlicky Creamed Nettles
Adapted from Meel’s Meals “Glorified Highballin’ and Creamed Nettles”
Serves 2-3 as a side dish
~4 cups (~100 g) raw nettles
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBSP (28 g) butter
1/3 cup (80 mL) half and half
1/4 cup (25 g) finely grated parmesan cheese
Blender or food processor (optional)
Large pot or stock pot
- Set a large pot of water to boil.
- Put on your garden gloves and gently empty the nettles into the colander in your sink. Rinse well by using the tongs to flip the nettles. (I know you shouldn’t need both tongs and gloves but be safe!!)
- Boil the nettles for 3-4 minutes, then drain into colander and rinse with cold water. Let drain.
- When the nettles are cool enough to handle, cut off the stems with kitchen scissors and discard (compost).
- Squeeze out the liquid from the nettles and either finely chop or run through the food processor.
- In a skillet, melt butter over medium heat. When the butter has melted, saute the garlic till golden.
- Add the cream and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for about 2 minutes or until the cream coats the back of a spoon.
- Add the grated parmesan and blended nettles and cook for about 2 more minutes. Serve warm. (Delicious topped with a poached egg.)
*I experience gender failure in the sense that I’m a femme butch and a butch femme. I’m not feminine- or masculine of center because, to me, femme and butch behaviors have no roots in gender, assigned or otherwise. My goal is actually to mix and match all sorts of gender markers in a disruptive way and not have anyone gender me all day, tbh.