Carl Legge’s Foraged Nettle Permie Pizza


If you have been reading this blog for a long time you might recall a post or two in which Mr IronFingers and I went out nettle picking. If I pick nettles I have to wear two pairs of gloves and make a huge song and dance about it. If the bag so much as brushes against my skin once it has nettles in it, I scream – just in case – a bit like the White Queen in Alice in Wonderland. If a nettle looks at me, I quiver abjectly. Mr IronFingers on the other hand laughs at nettles and grasps them firmly and then pops them in the bag. He who is hopelessly allergic to all berry fruit and their little tiny hairs does not react to nettles at all, how strange is that?

It is now nettling time for those with iron fingers and /or amazing gloves. Brian will only pick them when they are short and young and haven’t got too dark in colour, he says his Dad picked them like that and they get too strong later on. He is very picky (sic) about his nettles. So today I was a bit sneaky, I suggested a walk off the beaten track and secreted one of those fold up shopping bags around my person,  then pulled it out with an nonchalent air when I saw some potential nettles and asked politely if he would pick some for me.  He obliged, the dogs ate grass and avoided the nettles and I picked a small bunch of wild garlic leaves and flowers and watched and waited for him to scream; he never does.

The original plan was to make the nettle gnocchi that we had made some years ago and maybe some soup but on visiting Twitter I saw a tweet that Carl had written an article about Spring Foraging in the Guardian and I had a look at it and lo and behold there was a recipe for nettle pizza so that was what we had to try. I made a quick pizza dough, persuaded IronFingers once more to deal with the nettles, wash, spin, chop, and season. I fished my wild garlic out of the bag and promptly stung my finger on a hidden nettle just waiting with barbs hovering to bite my delicate little finger. Ow Ow!

We seasoned the nettles as Carl suggests – those chilli flakes are essential! –  and substituted the wild garlic for the garlic cloves as we had picked some of that too and then, baked away and stuffed our faces.

A slice of pizza topped with tender and subdued nettles

A slice of pizza topped with tender and subdued nettles

I have to say that I thought the nettles would shrivel up like kale does when you make crisps but the seven minutes in a hot hot oven just cooked them beautifully and the combination of chilli flakes and nettles and melty mozarella was a complete and utter delight!

Carl calls this a ‘permie pizza’ in his new book The Permaculture Kitchen. It has great photos and an engaging tone and lots of recipes which encourage and inspire you to think creatively and use what you have and use a few things that you would never have thought of.  I bought a copy as soon as it came out, because I like to read books that friends write and even though we have never met in person, there is something about Twitter and the kindness and generosity of people like Carl and his wife Debs that make the world spin a little sweeter.


PS  I am experimenting with these Gallery settings, I have tried various permutations, currently trying the full scale carousel. Do you like the Galleries?  I think they load better on smartphones etc, but I don’t know what you think?  Do let me know if you have an opinion. Thanks!


28 thoughts on “Carl Legge’s Foraged Nettle Permie Pizza

  1. ardysez

    Fun and interesting post! How handy to have Ironfingers around! I presume you can no longer feel/taste any hint of the spiny texture once the nettles have cooked. xx

    1. Joanna Post author

      No they are soft and very vegetal is the only the way to describe the taste, they have a unique smell/taste. I love them and they are truly seasonal and once they are above about eighteen inches off the ground B says they are too old, he only picks the top two pairs of leaves as well, to make sure he takes the tenderest leaves.

  2. Karin Anderson

    Though stinging nettles were the bane of our childhood games in Hamburg, I like the taste, and made nettle soup and nettle quiche (not pizza, though). They don’t grow here in Maine, and neither does wild garlic (sigh!), a very popular herb in Germany.
    Did you know that nettle is a great fertilizer? You only need to cover nettles with water, and leave it to ferment – it doesn’t smell good but works great.
    Happy Easter!

    1. Joanna Post author

      How funny that nettles don’t grow in Maine, I would have thought they would grow everywhere. I too have tried growing the garlic from seed but I have had better luck with a couple of bulbs in pots, though they haven’t reproduced very fast in my garden. I think they are quite fussy and then when they like somewhere they take it over. I don’t have any nettles in my garden so would have to pick them elsewhere to use as fertiliser. I have heard comfrey is also good but invasive as a plant. Happy Easter to you too Karin!

  3. Le Petit Potager

    What a coincidence I’ve just been sent a recipe for nettle pesto and nettle omelette with sharp cheddar. Like Mr Ironfingers I can pick nettles as long as they don’t touch the back of my hand; my finger pads seem immune.

    1. Joanna Post author

      It is the time of year to pick nettles, though some people pick them later in the year, we don’t. Clever you being Like IronFingers, (though he did show me a single blister this morning on his hand where he had been squeezing them out while prepping them in the bowl) ;)

  4. sallybr

    I remember that post, and of course I am pretty intrigued by this pizza as far as taste and texture goes….

    they do look like kale (which I love) but seem to behave in a different way under heat – pretty interesting, now I would love to have a slice of your pizza!

    Hope you are headed to a spectacular weekend!

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thinking about it, maybe if they had had longer in the oven they would have shrivelled more like kale. Nettles are phenomenally healthy to eat so I always feel very virtuous when we do this! It is sunny and chilly here, we are off to buy hot cross buns across town from the East Street Bakery :)

  5. drfugawe

    I’ve intended to go out and pick nettles many times, but have yet to do it! However, with your urging, I think I’ll try again very soon – as I read both you and Carl, I determined to make a wild forage soup with nettles, mushrooms, and clams and mussels – I think that should make a good soup, don’t you?
    Have a beautiful Easter, amiga.

    1. Joanna Post author

      That soup sounds a complete delight Doc and I wish I could share it with you. I saw teeny tiny mussels clustered on big rocks last weekend in Wales but they were far too small to harvest. Have a lovely weekend my dear friend :) x

  6. Ann

    Happy Easter to you all!
    I well remember stinging nettles but neither they nor wild garlic grow here in WA. Dock leaves were supposed to cure the sting and always seemed to grow nearby – very handy.
    Liked the pic of Zeb at his little roundhouse!

    1. Joanna Post author

      No dock leaves in the garden here, or nettles that I have spotted so far, but they do pop up sometimes! Happy Easter to you too Ann!

  7. Lorraine Pullen

    We are having the same pizza for lunch today, have already earmarked the nettles in the garden that will be picked a bit later. Carls book is amazing and I plan to work my way through it over the summer :)

    1. Joanna Post author

      I hope you enjoyed your pizza Lorraine. I had forgotten how good the nettles are, we all need inspiration !

  8. heidiannie

    I have only bad memories of stinging nettles- my family wasn’t much into foraging when I was young and the nettles grew up next to the raspberry bushes next to our side garden. Now that I said that, I remember many dishes of dandelion greens that had to be picked when they were a certain height and before they bloomed- so I guess we did some foraging after all!
    Your pizza looks wonderful- I wish I could have a taste. And I’m happy to hear you used mozzarella- so many go for the goat cheese with a green veg that I’m thinking that it has been a bit overdone. I like a salty and stretchy cheese on my pizza= mozzarella and provolone, please.
    And I love the titles to your posts almost as much as the posts, themselves. :)

    1. Joanna Post author

      I picked mushrooms or rather watched the aunts and my mother picking mushrooms in Sweden with great suspicion, but no one died so I figured they knew what they were doing. I definitely didn’t go anywhere near nettles and would not have thought of eating them as a child. My foraging consisted mainly of sneaking into the veg patch and taking peas in their pods and things like that, oh and blackberries, which were always surrounded by scratchy thorns. The pizza was very good but I did stay awake into the small hours, so I don’t know if that was too much melted cheese or the nettles fizzing in my brain, I haven’t eaten pizza for a while now. I think I should go on a steamed veg purge after this week, I have been indulging myself with a lot of cheese lately :)

    1. Joanna Post author

      Gloves at all times till they have been wilted or cooked and then magically their nasty little stinging hairs are rendered harmless. I have cooked the remainder up into a big batch of leek and nettle soup and stashed in the freezer. I love nettle soup!

  9. narf77

    Yum yum YUM! I must say that little crop of nettles that is standing to tiny baby attention (even as teeny seedlings they know that it is safer to mass in HUGE piles than be individually picked off, gotta admire that in a plant ;) ) outside the chook run is about to be fenced off and saved from Stevie-boy’s eagle eye (he hates nettle stings as well). I have plans for them now :)

      1. narf77

        Not too far from here (so long as you don’t mind a hell of a dunking and can swim…REALLY well…). Will check it out ASAP :)

        1. Joanna Post author

          Not being a botanic expert but I have a feeling that your nettles may be a different species or you may have different species alongside this one and you might want to check out that they are safe to eat ? Our variety is the European stinging nettle urtica dioica

          1. narf77

            Tassie is like Little Britain without Andy. I am quite sure our nettles are the same as you have in the U.K. :)

  10. michaelawah

    this looks utterly delicious. I’ve heard much about the virtues of nettles and even dandelions. Even more reason to take a walk, except i’m such a useless urbanite I can’t tell one species from another!
    I like the gallery setting. You’re very good to do ‘process’ shots. It’s always nice – and useful – to see how something comes along, and readers can zoom in if they like.

    1. Joanna Post author

      There is something delightful about cooking with nettles, a frisson, not quite fugu blowfish ;) Maybe one day you could go out on a walk with someone who knows their wild plants, or even a fungi walk? i just snap away with whatever I have to hand so am pleased you like the gallery setting. I hope it makes it quicker to load the page and have a peek and then as you say up to you if you want a closer look. Thanks for the feedback !

  11. timethief

    Stinging nettles are abundant where I live. As a child learned how irritating the sting was so and I have always avoided contact with them. Now I’m looking at them in a new way. Maybe it’s time to don gloves, harvest some, and ask hubby to try this pizza recipe.

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