Campsite Foraging for Nettles to Make Wild Tea

Campsite Foraging for Nettles to Make Wild Tea

Embracing the Sting: A Forager’s Journey Through the Highlands

As I step out of my tent at the Loch Ness Shores campsite, the crisp morning air kisses my cheeks, signaling the start of another adventure in the Scottish Highlands. But today, my sights are set on a rather unconventional quarry: the humble stinging nettle.

Nettles, the Overlooked Superfood

The growing season has begun, and with it, the foraging season. While many have a laser-like focus on morels and other delicacies, I recognize this as the time when a true superfood emerges from the undergrowth: the stinging nettle (Urtica dioica).

These resilient plants are native to a large portion of North America, including the Scottish Highlands. Famous for their tiny, irritant-imparting hairs, nettles are familiar (and memorable) to kids, gardeners, anglers, and other outdoor enthusiasts like myself. But don’t let their prickly reputation fool you – these leafy greens are a nutritional powerhouse, packed with protein, calcium, Vitamin A, iron, and more.

Foraging for Nettles: A Delicate Dance

As I head out into the lush, verdant landscape, I keep an eye out for the telltale signs of my quarry. Nettles thrive in disturbed and moist soils, often clustered along stream banks, ditches, and lakeshores. Their heavily textured, emerald leaves make them easy to spot, even as they tower over 6 feet tall in the right conditions.

The key to successful nettle foraging, I’ve found, is all about timing. I prefer to harvest the leaves early in the spring, when they are smaller and decidedly more tender. Unfortunately, this also means the leaves are a bit more prickly, so I don’t venture out without a trusty pair of rubber or light leather gloves. Later in the season, the leaves can become tougher and take on a bitter flavor.

Preparing Nettles for the Campfire

Once I’ve gathered a nice handful of nettles, the next step is to prepare them for cooking. This involves carefully removing the stems, as they can become lumpy or even woody when left in. I’ve found the best way to do this is to pinch near the base of the leaf, then twist and pull to tear it free from the stem, without losing too much of the precious leaf.

With the stems removed, I’m ready to transform these foraged greens into a delightful wild tea. The process is simple: I just need to add the fresh or dried leaves to a pot of boiling water, let it steep for a few minutes, and voila – a refreshing, nutrient-packed beverage to enjoy at my campsite.

Nettle Risotto: A Campfire Delight

But nettles aren’t just for tea – they also make a fantastic addition to savory campfire dishes. One of my personal favorites is nettle risotto, a recipe I stumbled upon from the foraging guru Hank Shaw.

To make this campsite classic, I’ll need to gather a few more handfuls of nettles, as well as some arborio rice, broth, and a few other simple ingredients. The key is to gently cook the nettles down, blending their earthy, slightly bitter flavor into the creamy risotto. It’s a dish that never fails to impress my fellow campers, and it’s a great way to showcase the versatility of these often-overlooked plants.

Nettle Soup: A Forager’s Delight

This year, I’ve also decided to try my hand at nettle soup, a hearty and nutrient-dense dish that’s perfect for fueling up after a long day of hiking and exploration. The process is similar to making the tea, but I’ll need to let the nettles simmer a bit longer to achieve the desired texture.

As I stir the pot over the campfire, the aroma of the nettles mingling with the earthy broth fills the air, making my stomach rumble with anticipation. I can’t wait to savor this wild and wonderful creation, knowing that I’ve tapped into a centuries-old tradition of using the land’s bounty to nourish and sustain myself.

Embracing the Sting: A Forager’s Reward

While some may shy away from nettles due to their prickly reputation, I’ve found that a little bit of preparation and a willingness to embrace the sting can unlock a world of culinary delights. Whether sipping a warm cup of nettle tea or indulging in a hearty nettle-infused risotto, I’m reminded of the wealth of edible treasures that lie just beyond the campsite, waiting to be discovered.

So as I settle in for the evening, nestled in the cozy confines of my tent, I can’t help but smile at the thought of the wild tea I’ll be sipping tomorrow morning. It’s a reminder that the true riches of the Highlands aren’t always the ones that glisten and shine, but the ones that require a bit of foraging and a willingness to embrace the unexpected. And for this intrepid adventurer, that’s precisely what makes it all the more rewarding.

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