A good wild edible for new foragers, being very common and familiar to most of us from painful and often memorable introductions in childhood but they will certainly make amends when carefully gathered, providing a tasty and highly nutritious addition to many dishes.
Nettles are packed full of goodness! The Fresh leaves are high in protein and contain lots of beneficial minerals and vitamins including iron, calcium potassium, magnesium, zinc, manganese, vitamin A, several B vitamins, C, D, E and K as well as essential Amino and fatty acids.
Nettles make a superior spinach substitute. Pick the tops of the young plants before they flower.
Nettles are a Spring green but new growth leaves can usually be found through most of the year.
Be careful not to pick them from contaminated sites as they have been known to accumulate heavy metals from the soil.
Grasp The Nettle
Nettle leaves and stems are covered in little hairs called trichomes which act like hypodermic needles when they brush against your skin; injecting a cocktail of chemical compounds that cause the stinging sensation we all know so well. These include histamine and formic acid, the same chemical that ants use to inflict pain (Formic comes from the Latin word formica, meaning ‘ant’).
Nettle stings have been used since ancient times as pain relief for arthritis and other rheumatic ailments, a practice known as urtication.
If you’d rather avoid getting stung whilst harvesting Nettles use thick gardening gloves (washing up gloves don’t work!).
Alternatively you can grasp the top of the stem firmly between thumb and forefinger and gently tug to detach the top few leaves. It takes a bit of trial and error and sometimes leaves you with a tingle in your tips but it’s worth mastering for impromptu Nettle gathering.
Popular remedies for alleviating Nettle stings include Dock (if used correctly, as explained here by Monica Wilde), Plantain and the juice from the Nettles themselves.
Eat The Nettle, Drink The Nettle.
Nettle stings are disarmed in the cooking process or by crushing/blending the leaves (as in a smoothie or pesto).
Nettle soup is very popular. I really enjoy eating them as a tasty green alone or added to favourite dishes, as you would spinach and other leafy greens.
Create a nutritious colourful pasta by adding them to the dough.
They make a healthful tea (I add Mint to make it more palatable, especially for children).
Wild Foods UK suggest Nettle Crisps as a fun way to get your kids eating this “super food”!
Robin Harford’s uses them to make a reddish-pink coloured Cordial.
Roger Phillips includes a recipe for Nettle Beer in his book Wild Food.
What are your favourite ways to use Nettles? Leave a comment below and share any recipes.
Nettles have a long history of use in Herbal medicine from alleviating allergies to cleansing the blood and promoting hair loss.
What Is Spanish Tortilla? For some reason I used to think that Spanish Omelette (or Tortilla) was an omelette made with loads of Spanish style