With the onset of warm weather, I allow the nettle patch to flower and make seed. Since the seeds are edible, I like to harvest and dry them, which is a bit labor intensive, however well worth the effort. The flower heads are snipped from the stems (many seeds are already falling off onto the leaves) into a large bowl to collect all of the seeds. If you let them sit for a few hours and then place them in a coarse sieve, the flowers/seeds can easily be rubbed from the stems. I usually let them sit overnight and then rub them through the sieve and let them dry another day or two before using them in a recipe.
The way that I like to use them best is to combine them with sesame seeds and sea salt and sometimes, seaweed, to make an incredibly tasty and nutritive version of gomasio. Sometimes spelled gomashio, this traditional table condiment is made from toasted and ground sesame seeds coarsely ground with sea salt, used in Japanese cooking. It can sprinkled over anything from soups, stir fries, noodle and rice dishes to steamed vegetables or any grilled vegetables, chicken or seafood. I like to sprinkle it over hummus and babaghanoush and I like to serve a little bowl of gomasio (for dunking) with vegetable crudites like radishes, cucumber slices, carrots, celery, etc. It is also tasty on warmed flatbreads or pitas with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.
I’ve been making gomasio for years using some seaweed as the third ingredient, which adds flavor as well as trace minerals like calcium, iodine, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and selenium, as well as Vitamins A, B, C and E as well as protein. I use a lot of different sea vegetables–you can use whatever you have, or a mixture. There are many studied medical properties of seaweed from removing radioactive and metallic elements from the body to lowering cholesterol, strengthening bones, teeth, and digestion, supporting the thyroid, and more.
I was inspired to add the nettle seed after reading about Rebecca Altman’s “Nettle Seed & Seaweed Salt”, which sold out rather quickly (https://www.kingsroadapothecary.com/products/nettle-seed-and-seaweed-salt). The addition of the nettle seed is tasty and appealing and Rebecca says that “Nettle seeds give a little energy boost, while supporting kidney and adrenal function.”
Use a good quality, mineral-rich salt like Celtic sea salt–sometimes I add some pink Himalayan salt–I also have some hand-harvested salts that I brought back from the isles of Greece and the coast of California. I like that these salts aren’t fine-grained and pure white; they have texture and color, not to mention flavor.
Get some fresh sesame seeds, I buy them raw and toast them as needed. Like other seeds and nuts, sesame seeds can go rancid so I keep them in the freezer. My favorite source for nearly local sesame seeds, which are known as benne in our American southern states, is Anson Mills in Columbia, South Carolina. (ANSONMILLS.COM) They have high-quality products, many old heirloom cultivars, ranging from benne seeds and all types of flour to cornmeal, grits, polenta, a variety of grains and rice to Southern beans and peas. I highly recommend checking them out–and be sure to sign up for their newsletter to receive seasonal recipes (which cause me to practically drool).
All that said, here is a fairly simple recipe–processing the nettle seeds takes the longest–you can do this ahead and once dried (be sure they are completely dried and free of moisture) keep them in a jar until ready to use.
Gomasio with Nettle Seeds & Sea Vegetables
I use an herb grinder to chop the sea vegetables which tend to be tough. Grind them somewhere between fine and coarse–I find it near about impossible to get them fine–it is okay to have some small bits and pieces.
Makes about 2 cups
About 3/4 cup raw sesame seeds
About 1/4 cup finely chopped sea vegetables
About 1/4 cup dried (or nearly dried) nettle seed
About 3/4 cup Celtic or other sea salt
In a spice roasting pan or small iron skillet, heat the sesame seeds over low heat for just a few minutes, stirring occasionally or shaking the pan. Spices toast quickly and you do not want to over toast or burn them–or you will have to throw them out and start over.
Once the sesame seeds are hot to the touch (perhaps 3 minutes) add the sea vegetables along with the nettle seed, stir, and toast for just 1 minute more, stirring occasionally or shaking the pan. You will smell the toasted sesame, sea vegetables and nettle seed. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl.
Allow the mixture to cool. Once cool, transfer them to the bowl of a food processor and add the sea salt. Pulse to blend well, leaving some texture. Transfer the gomasio to a jar, or smaller jars (they make a very special gift) and label.