One of my goals in recent years has been to better learn how to “forage” the wild food around me. Not only is it free, but they are often very good for you as well. Nutrient rich nettles are perfect for picking right now in my area, as they are young and tender. I need to say from the beginning that I am just a beginner at this and if you would like to do the same I encourage you to get expert advice on what to pick and what not to pick.
But I figured that nettles were not only very easy to identify (if in doubt, touch it and you will soon found out!), but I also thought they would be a great choice to gather since they are so nutritious. Think, like spinach, but better. High in iron, calcium, vitamin C, and a plethora of other nutrients, it has been used fresh and dried for many nutritional or medical uses over many years.
“Nettles are a rich green color revealing its extremely high iron and chlorophyll content. It is also very high in the minerals calcium, magnesium, silicon, sulphur, copper, chromium, zinc, cobalt, potassium and phosphorus. Nettles also contain high amounts of vitamins A, C, D, E, and K as well as riboflavin and thiamine” Source
Now, you may be thinking of the time you ran through a stinging nettle patch with shorts on in the summer as a child. (Well, maybe you didn’t do that, but I did!). Yes, stinging nettles sting you, and it’s not that comfortable (especially if your legs are covered with the stings). But they are easy enough to pick with gloves and pants and a long sleeve shirt on. I didn’t get stung once while picking. In fact, some nettle picking “experts” say they don’t bother to use gloves, and claim they rarely get pricked by it.
And yes, it’s completely edible (and I found delicious too). Just a few minutes of cooking removes all traces of the sting, so no worries there.
Since we don’t have any growing at our house, I drove over to my in-laws house, where they have a whole “garden” of stinging nettle. I picked a whole bag full and brought it home. We made a delicious soup with it (which I will share soon), and my husband, who wasn’t too sure of the idea, told me that he was really glad I had made the effort, because he really liked it.
Here’s a few tips I found for picking Nettles.
1-Pick when the plant is young. Older plants can be bitter and fibrous. Make sure that they haven’t flowered as well. You will want to pick before they reach that point.
2-Pick/cut the top 4-6 inches of the plant (this will be the tender part), and it will regrow and then you can harvest again.
3-Wear proper nettle clothing if you don’t want to get “stung”.
4-Make sure that you are picking nettles in area not contaminated in the past. Also get permission from the owners of the land before picking (that would be a good time to found out the history of the land there). Avoid picking right by the highway, where toxic fumes from cars will have contaminated the nettles. Some people just allow it to grow in their backyard.
For those who don’t have access to a picking area, you will sometimes find it at farmer’s markets. So look for it there.
Helpful and Interesting Nettle Links:
Just Nettle Tea– Great information about nettles.
Wild Gourmet Stinging Nettle Picking (utube video, he uses tongs to pick his stinging nettles, includes lot of great info as well)
Any nettle lovers out there? Have tips to share? Favorite recipes?
This post is part of Kimberly’s Natural Cures carnival.