• The Wild Foodie

The Stinging Nettle - Nature's Health Food

Updated: May 2, 2019

The stinging nettle is a plentiful and reliable form of Wild Food. The leaves, seeds, and roots are all edible, and are very nutritious. The leaves are higher in iron than spinach, and are also high in calcium and other vitamins (A and C) and minerals. Stinging nettles are also traditionally seen as having healing properties and are considered treatments for a variety of problems, including arthritis.

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Found everywhere from Woodland to Wasteland, Hedgerow to Riverside the Stinging Nettle is one of the first plants you quickly learn to recognise when you are a child. This Wild plant is an upright perennial with heart shaped toothed leaves that are covered in stinging hairs.

The one problem that Stinging Nettles have is how to harvest them – use gloves and a good bag to collect them! The leaves are at their best late Feb to early June. Ignore the older leaves and take only the newest shoots, if the plant is plentiful (which it usually is!!) take only the crowns or the top 4 leaves (the nettle leaves with the lightest colour) as these are sure to be the youngest and most tender.

To destroy the sting you have to cook the stinging nettle. Cook in boiling water for at least 5 minutes. The sting will be completely destroyed after this period and the nettles will cook down so don’t be shy when putting them in the pot you’ll need lots! Like cabbage water the boiling liquor from the cooking of the stinging nettles shouldn’t be thrown away, you have just made nettle tea (Sweeten it with honey and lemon juice if you like)!

Foraging and picking stinging nettles
Picking Stinging Nettles

If you consider stinging nettles to be similar to spinach you’ll have just uncovered 100’s of recipes and ways to use the nettles. One of my favourite ways is to make a Stinging Nettle Gnocchi (courtesy of Antonio Carluccio!) or you could create a Cream of Nettle Soup – Delicious!! The rich irony flavour lends well to cheese and pasta's and makes a wonderful side on its own.

There are so many ways to use Stinging Nettles and I will be writing as many of them down in time as I can, so make sure you’re a fan and stay in touch.

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