Thanks for your kind words yesterday. I felt the love!
I also appreciate all the emails begging for a few recipes for nettles. (Second only to the number of emails I receive regarding my offer of a laundry soap recipe! Which is coming soon.) In the interest of not complicating everyone's life, I'm going to keep this simple and give you a few jumping-off places and guidelines for use. Because proper recipes might be a stretch for me this week but I can easily get you rolling in the right direction.
Nettle, to most, is a weed best eradicated from the face of the earth (or at least from the trails we walk and gardens we tend). And yet…
A weed is just a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Nettle's virtues are very much know to herbalists (armature or otherwise). So around here it is a weed no more! Indeed, if I had to choose my single favorite green – wild or tame – there would be no question: it's nettle. (And my little Lupine agrees.) Nothing else is so nutritionally valuable and such a panacea for young and old.
Nettle is rich in calcium, iron, and dozens of other vitamins and minerals. Nettle is a great detoxifier for radiation (which we are all exposed to daily in more ways than we may realize), a remedy for growing pains for kids, a treatment for UTIs, and a balancer of hormones for women of all ages (PMS and menopause). Nettle is also recommended to anyone with allergies or hay fever. I'm convinced that there are few conditions that nettle won't help alleviate.
Look for nettle along paths and other impacted areas. Edges of fields, near ponds and streams, etc. Once you have an eye for it you'll be surprised where you find it. Choose nettle only from clean areas – no highway shoulder harvests, please. This is food, after all. Unsure where to begin? If you are new to foraging duck into a local nature center and ask them to point you in the direction of their nearest nettle patch. They will likely be glad to have you harvest, or at least can help you identify the plant and good places to find it. Moist soil is what nettle prefers, so don't bother checking in sandy or dry areas.
How to Harvest:
Nettle is covered in fine hairs that deliver a surprising sting. (Here you say, "And you want me to eat it, Rachel?") We'll address the sting in terms of safe consumption in a bit. First we have to pick them.
The seasoned nettle lover will likely pick nettle bare-handed now and then. We do on occasion – even Lupine (though Sage is a tough sell on this approach). Some say nettle's sting is a remedy for arthritis and yes, I have intentionally rubbed nettle on sore joints. It's not so bad. Picking bare handed you will find that a firm pinch will flatten the stinging hairs and no zap will be delivered. But the easiest way to pick nettle is in long sleeves wearing your garden gloves.
Pinch off the tender tops. I usually go for the top cluster of fresh growth and the pair or two of larger leaves just below. Once the plants get big the leaves are tough and suitable for tea but not so much for eating as greens. If you harvest the tops only nettle will continue to put forth new tender growth right through until fall if you keep harvesting. I have a favorite patch that I visit each week and it will stay tender right through summer.
How to Prepare:
Take your nettle home and rinse them. Fill your sink with cold water and dump in your bag of nettle tops. With plastic bags or gloves over your hands, gently agitate the water to rinse away any sand, soil, and even most of the stinging hairs. Drain water and repeat if you wish. (Truth be told I often don't even bother with the rinsing. But that's just me.)
Dehydrate: Do dry some for tea. That's a simple and wonderful place to start. It makes it easy to enjoy nettle every day without the thought of how to incorporate them into your meal. My freezer now contains two gallons of dried, crumbled nettle tops. That's enough tea to last my nettle-crazed family all winter. To take advantage of nettle's benefits add a big pinch to a cup of tea every day.
Cook: Again with gloves if you are worried about stings (or not if you don't mind), chop your nettle as you would spinach or chard. Do away with the thick stems now or after they are cooked (I often do this after cooking because it is easier for me. In fact I save the chopping until after cooking too most days.) You can saute and freeze or quickly blanch and freeze for future use.
Eat: Here are some favorite ways to enjoy nettle ~
- Saute with a little garlic and add to – or top with – eggs. This is my favorite way to eat nettles. YUM. The flavor and texture of nettle really shines with eggs. The texture is more grainy that other greens and really works with eggs.
- Add to a quiche or egg bake, especially with garlic mustard pesto, ramp pesto, or basil pesto.
- Puree into a green soup. Use 1/2 of a plastic shopping bag full of nettles to a pot of chicken stock, a potato or two (assuming you eat them), and some garlic or ramps. Salt. Eat. Be nourished.
- Saute with minced onion and mix with ground meat or rice and stuff a favorite veggie of your choice.
- Make Nettle Noodles (for the grain-eaters among us). These are so easy. Really. Use this recipe but replace the 2 C beets with 1 C blanched or sauteed nettles.
- Top a pizza.
- Add to pesto. Make pesto with 1/2 nettle and 1/2 basil, ramps, or garlic mustard. Freeze in ice cube trays or ice cream scoops-full on a cookie sheet for use all year long.
The possibilities are endless. Think of nettle as a feisty (as in stingy) spinach that chills out when cooked and you'll know just what to do with it.
32 thoughts on “Eating Weeds: Recipes for Nettles.”
Thanks for the post! My husband and his father took the kids into the woods and came back with more nettles than I know what to do with among other things. My question is how do you dry them? We ended up just laying them flat for a day or so but it was a pain to shuffle them around the kitchen during meal time and such. Grandpa thought they would burn in a low heat oven and we got rid of our dehydrate a long time ago since it dried more dust than anything else 🙂 Advice?
Do you have any old window screens? You can make a quick and easy dehydrator by by just propping screens up on brick and setting them out in the sun if it isnt humid. This one looks awesome for humid Wisconsin. I plan to make one next year: http://www.instructables.com/id/Humid-Climate-Solar-Dehydrator/ For now I dry mine most days in my oven with the door propped set to very low heat. Very low.
Or hang them in bunches.
I tend to just pinch off the tops making hanging unreasonable, but yes – if you pull them or take the bulk of the plant.
I didn’t realize that I could keep visiting my favorite patch all summer, but of course! We’ve been eating lots o nettles ever since you started raving about them a month ago. I also have a ton that we dehydrated for tea. Do I need to keep that in the freezer? Oh, and we have been eating them stem and all with no problem. They soften up when cooking pretty quickly. As for putting it away in the freezer I have made bags of pureed nettle ice cubes (I used stems and all, just barely blanched, rinsed in cold water, squeezed into balls and roughly chopped before adding to food processor with a few chopped ramps, a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.) I plan on putting it into just about every soup and stew this fall/winter. YUM.
I freeze mine because last years stash all molded just from the moisture from the wet spring (in the air in my house). So now Im overprotective. I cant bear to buy nettle, from Cali or anywhere when I can stash my own. My kids are picky about stems (our use to be) so I stem them but Ill leave them on next time and see how it goes. Maybe tonight! Call me.
Thank you so much for this post. I was looking at the nettles in the back part of my yard today contemplating eating them and how to go about it. This was perfect timing 🙂
You are a good manifestor! 🙂 Glad the timing was right. Enjoy!
Thanks Rachel! Just what I needed. If I sub it on our spinach pizza, my husband is sure to back off my patch. He put weed killer on it 2 years ago (cringe) before I knew what he was doing, but Iast year I kept him off of it. Think the patch is safe to eat from this year? Can’t wait to make the chai
My question is how do you dry them? We ended up just laying them flat for a day or so but it was a pain to shuffle them around the kitchen during meal time and such.
We love nettles! For recipes…anything that calls for spinach can be replaced with nettles. By the end of winter we all start to crave it. I like to use a food processor to chop it up fine when I’m using it raw or cooked. It’s the kids favorite thing to pick and eat outside!
Hi Laura! Ive been thinking of you because of Hawaii. Bring your nettles and do eat them daily, wont you? (Did you read Lulus quote about the nettle stuffed doll? I knew you would appreciate.) Well be thinking of you… and dreaming of our first visit.
Last year when we started talking about our move Kyle was worried there would be no nettles. Well the stinging nettles are there (as an invasive) and the islands have a native nettle that has evolved so well it lost it’s stingers! http://hawaiigardening.blogspot.com/2009/03/mamaki-hawaiian-nettle.html We’ll let you know if it tastes the same 🙂 Also, I found out I can grow one of my favorite scents that you use in your LuSa soaps…VETIVER!!! http://keolamagazine.com/the-life-of-the-land/healing-grass-the-amazing-and-versatile-vetiver/ Never would have known about that one if not for your fabulous soaps!! <3 Laura
Here’s one from Elana’s Pantry (which I love!).
I love you for loving nettles as much as me! I don’t have the citation (or the exact wording), but was once told that Steiner was quoted wishing that every man could have the nettle encircling his heart. I totally feel that!
Plus – Nettles are sacred to Tibetans, it is said that the famous yogi/saint Milarepa lived on Nettle soup, and they are available at market in Nepal, etc. My hubby is Tibetan, so his mom thinks my nettle love is all the proof she needs I’m a suitable wife 😉
So lovely! Thank you for sharing. (And see, more proof that we are meant to be friends. We love the same people, the same philosophies, and even lovely Nettle.) 🙂 I cant get enough. Just today I questioned if my nettle obsession at this time of year qualifies as hoarding yet. Ask me late next winter. If I have gallons of nettles on hand then yes.
When I was pregnant, I would fill a quart jar packed full w/dried nettles, cover w/ boiling water and let it steep for a few hours, strain and drink throughout the day.
There, that solves your hoarding issue: give gallon jars to pregnant ladies 😉
We’re already friends, honey, we just haven’t met in real life yet. Tell Ami to arrange for a picnic next time you’re in the mke or madison area (I’m halfway in between)
Ooh… Thats tough. I might wait a year on that one unless it seems really happy and you feel good about it. Bummer!
I decided to go for it. It’s coming it beautifully and Stephen assures me it’s been 2 years, not 1, since anything went on it.
My first cup of Nettle tea was awesome. I’m actually making the Chai right now!
I think waiting is prudent. Especially for something as healing as nettle. Here too on the Chai! 🙂
Awesome! Who knew?
I dry mine in the oven or dehydrator. Otherwise old window screens work well.
Totally thought of you yesterday!! We were at the Kittitas County, WA Farmer’s Market and 3 seperate vendors were selling stinging nettles! How cool is that?
You are in Washington! And you found nettles. Life is good. (My mom once reached into my CSA share box and shrieked. Are those NETTLES? What is wrong with these people?! after stinging he hand. I was not the most sensitve daughter and had to stifle a snort. Now she harvests them and dries them for tea/eats them sauteed.) Happy trails, friend.
Thank you for this post! I was inspired to track down an urban source to forage nettles, and my lovely midwife recommended a wonderful patch. Today has been spent gathering nettles with my kids, rinsing, cooking and drying them. Edible weeds is such an amazing concept to me!
Thats fantastic, Michelle! So glad you found your own local source. Buying nettles is a crazy concept to me, so Im happy to hear that you found your own. Enjoy!
Hi Rachel, Thanks for the info on Nettle a few months ago. I never knew about it or it’s health benefits even though we are nightly herbal tea drinkers. We foraged just a little bit this year but next year hoping to do more. I was wondering if you have ever foraged horsetail? Just starting to learn about the effects of horsetail and making my own beauty products at home. I have come across a few that call for dried horsetail and I don’t want to buy it since it is VERY abundant here (in BC, Canada). If you’ve done a post on it that I cannot find I would love the link to it. Thanks!
I have not used horsetail in the past, though a good wild edibles book could lead you in the right direction as to species, etc. If you know how you want to use it, go for it. Such an amazing plant, too. Best, Rachel
I read somewhere you can only pick nettles in early spring. Is this not true?? Can I go pick nettles now?