Free Food (and Medicine) For the Asking.








When Sage was seven we were foraging for ramps in the woods. He looked up at me with big thoughtful eyes and said, "Mama, we didn't need to bring a lunch along. Mother Earth feeds us!" Such a beautiful – and true – sentiment. Mother Earth does feed us. Free foods and plant medicines abound – if you know where to look and what to look for.

Today we're off the the woods again, to find more of my favorite spring food and medicine: Nettle. (Yes, one in the same to that pesky stinging "weed" that you curse on summer hikes.) Indeed, nettle is both food and medicine and we love it so. When cooked, pureed, or dried Nettle loses is feisty bite and becomes one of the best sources of nutrients and minerals out there, a brilliant detoxifier, and a vital anti-radiation remedy.

After a recent day of foraging Lupine told me, "Nettle is my friend. Mama, you should make me a new doll and fill her with nettle. Then when she wears out we can open her up and make tea." 

Nettle is our friend. We'll be home with big sacks full by day's end for fresh eating, blanching and freezing, and drying for tea.

I'll share some recipes with you soon if you'd like.


28 thoughts on “Free Food (and Medicine) For the Asking.

  1. Lori says:

    Where do you look and what is it? How do you pick and prepare it without getting a nasty rash? Yea I’m pretty clueless but it sounds like a really good thing to have. Lexi’s class is going on a field trip to a pond today. I bet there’s stuff there we could find if we knew what to look for.

  2. Rachel Wolf says:

    Ill do a post on nettles soon. We find them in disturbed areas (trails, campgrounds, country roads, old pastures, fence rows, etc.). Preparing nettle to eat by cooking, drying or pureeing makes it harmless. It does not cause a rash per se but the leaves and stem are covered in little hairs that deliver a sting to the skin. This book is a wonderful starting point:


  3. denise says:

    I love them! Even in our new urbanism neighborhood I get them wild in my raspberry patch. When I mess up and grab one … ouch … but they give us so much I don’t mind a little sting! 🙂 Love your photos.

  4. Rachel Wolf says:

    That plant is mullein. It is an incredible remedy for ear aches (an infusion of the flowers, with our without added garlic), and the leaves are a powerful remedy to treat congestion and coughs (an infusion, tea, or smoke). It is also know as lumberjacks toilet paper and can act as a blush for the cheeks (that is what Sage is doing in the last photo: pinking my cheeks).

    Mullein does so much more! Here is an article that came up in a quick google search:


  5. Laurie says:

    I’m just getting to know nettle, & would love some recipes. I dried my first batch last year, & added them to smoothies. This week I made my first soup with fresh nettles, which was OK.

  6. Jessica says:

    I live in Madison and would love to start foraging, taking my kids into nature more, etc. But don’t know where to go or how to get started. The arboretum? Would love any ideas about how to get started!

  7. kari b. says:

    i would like! we go two huge bags full today and i’m not sure even how to start drying ALL of it so some recipes would be good to use some up!

  8. Rachel Wolf says:

    Hi Jessi,
    Id start at a local nature center – Leopold perhaps? And find out if they offer a foraging class. If not theyll know where to send you. In my area there are foraging classes every spring and summer, so a trip to the Driftless Region might be in order!


  9. Rachel Wolf says:

    For a quick-fix, sub it in as spinach in any saute, or soup. Amazing sauteed with garlic and mixed into eggs, especially quiche. Ill try to share some recipes if we are feeling better soon!
    ~ Rachel

  10. Jonah Lisa says:

    Really looking forward to the recipes when you get around to it. We’re still about a few weeks away from even the young shoots here in Idaho. I have finally convinced my husband to leave our nettles alone, but I better do something with them this year or he’ll be after them again!

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