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)
Gnocchi with stinging Nettle pesto
Grilled Chicken Breast with Foraged Vegetables, Nettle Pesto, and Grilled Lightning Tree Farm Flatbread
Any nettle lovers out there? Have tips to share? Favorite recipes?
This post is part of Kimberly’s Natural Cures carnival.
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We love nettles! Another good thing to keep on hand is some burdock leaves – they help with the sting when foraging and can often be found growing in the same area. I came across a good video on identifying and foraging for nettles. I really like mine steamed, then sauteed with some curry powder and raisins.
My family hunting cabin woods are covered with nettles. I’ve heard you can eat them but I never have. I have been eating wild garlic mustard that’s invaded my garden plots in salads every day. It’s like sweet justice eating an invasive weed.
I’ve been studying more foraging plants as well, both for eating and for medicinal purposes. It’s so hard to find non-toxic versions though since so many areas are using mosquito spray and so many other sprays.
How funny that you posted on nettles today, Kimi! I shared about our weekend nettles search just yesterday. 🙂
Michelle @ Find Your Balance
Wow, I wonder if they grow around here. I’d never heard of them until fairly recently, and I just buy dried from the co-op. Cheapest tea around!
gfe-gluten free easily
We have nettles on our mountain property and while I’d heard of nettle tea, I’d never thought of harvesting them. Very intriguing. Free, healthy food as you say. 🙂
What a great post and I love the photos. Really nice! By the way, is your little girl’s photo in one of the WAPF Wise Traditions books or something? That little cutie pie on your “about” page looks so familiar. I know I’ve seen that photo before (of just her). You can’t forget a doll like that! Where have I seen her? Must be WAPF — I’m a member of the national and our local chapter.
I’ve never considered nettles before—I’m not sure if they even grow around by me. I’ll have to look around! They sound so healthy!
Every English child knows stinging nettles by sight before they reach school age… and most of them know that if you’re the one who has to go and get the ball out of the nettles, you rub the welts with dock leaves to make them stop smarting. But since moving to the US, I’ve not seen a stinging nettle, not even one! I was thrilled until I discovered poison ivy. Poison ivy is evil stuff – I wish you had nettles instead! Where in the US do stinging nettles grow?
I believe stinging nettles grow in the western US, in temperate climate areas like the valleys between mountains or hills. I’ve seen them in central Colorado.
Wild Food UK
Great post! Glad you’re inspiring folk to try out wild foods. I recently filmed a forager over in the UK who made a fabulous Chocolate, Sweet Violet & Nettle Chocolate recipe. You can watch the video here.
Have you read stalking the wild asparagus by euell gibbons? I did a post on it a few weeks ago. You may find it interesting- it’s an encyclopedia for wild foraging. We use nettles for tea- your soup looks wonderful!!!! the pictures in this post are really nice.
Wardeh @ GNOWFGLINS
I add nettles to an herb tea mix:
I have friends who harvest them locally and love it when I can get my hands on those! For now, though, I order through Azure Standard. I have not had success in coping with seasonal allergies though. I may feel better for a minute or two after drinking nettle tea, but no longer. I hope your husband has better results!
Your soup looks wonderful; I’d like to try it.
~Wardeh @ GNOWFGLINS
Embracing “God’s, Natural, Organic, Whole Foods, Grown Locally, In Season”
hiking one early summer day, the trail and old lumber road was covered with stinging neetles, and I had shorts on, we waded thru in pain for an hour, tryied another way back, no good and return the way we came, we thought we would all go crazy with the constant pain, finally out of it and spalshing and washing our legs, the pain was gone,
this was in mackey mtn wilderness area, in pisgah national forest, north carolina
I have seen and encountered small plots before but nothing like this day, we will go back to this hiking area in early spring before the neetles have had a chance to sprout much.