Co-op Blog

Know Your Nettles & Eat ’em Too

Now is the season for nettles, Urtica dioica, a wild food plant used worldwide for centuries. Also known ominously as stinging nettles, these greens have a tender and healing side. Visit the Co-op’s Produce department and you’ll find bags of local, wild harvested nettles from Organic Antics. Nettles are available now, only while supplies last.

Brave the Stinging Nettle

Photo by Whole Earth Harvest

Long considered to be annoying, due to its stinging hairs, boiled or baked nettles are a nutritious green. Rich in iron, calcium, magnesium and vitamin A and K, to name a few. Nettles are used as a diuretic, to prevent kidney stones, and to relieve the symptoms of arthritis.

Stinging nettles are used across countries and cultures for their purported (and FDA unrecognized) health benefits. These include: immune system support, improved energy levels, inflammation relief, hormonal regulation, blood pressure support and respiratory support. Use protective gloves when handling raw nettles.

Nettles: A Quick Profile

Nettle is a dioecious, herbaceous, perennial plant with soft, serrated green leaves on wiry green stems. Often eaten as food or as tea, nettle plants have also been used extensively for durable fibers and woven into cloth.

Nettles are relatively small, and seldom grow over five feet in height. The leaves and stems of some subspecies have long stinging hairs that inject an array of chemicals when touched, including histamine, formic acid, serotonin, and acetylcholine. This produces a burning, uncomfortable sensation in the skin, which is why stinging nettles also known as burn weed and burn nettle.

However, once you boil these stems and leaves or extract the powerful oils, the stinging substances are neutralized and the benefits of the plant can be enjoyed. Some cultures make nettle soup or make use of it’s coagulating properties to make cheese. Stinging nettle leaves are most commonly brewed as tea. Nettle leaves (fresh or dried) will make a deep green tea infusion, with a rich vegetal flavor and a potent chlorophyll aftertaste. Read on for some favorite nettle recipes.

Garlic Nettle Pesto

Recipe & Photo from jessthomson.wordpress.com

Yield: 1 generous cup / Tip: Buy fresh nettles in season, double the recipe and freeze extra batch(es) for future nettle-infused meals. Serve this pesto with pasta, rice or use as a marinade for roasted vegetables, lamb or poultry.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound nettles
  • 4 large garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/4 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a simmer for the nettles. Add the nettles directly from their bag and cook, stirring continuously, for 2 minutes. (This denatures their sting.) Dump into a colander to drain. When the nettles are cool enough to handle, wrap them in a clean dishtowel and wring out as much moisture as possible, like you would for spinach. You’ll have about a cup of cooked, squished nettles.

In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the paddle attachment, whirl the garlic, pine nuts, salt, and pepper to taste until finely chopped. Add the nettles, breaking them up as you drop them in, and the lemon juice and whirl until finely chopped. With the machine running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream, and process until smooth. Add the cheese, pulse briefly, and season to taste with additional salt, pepper, or lemon juice.

 

Chicken Nettle Soup

Recipe & photo from holistichealthherbalist.com

Ingredients:

  • 3 large handfuls of cubed or shredded chicken
  • 6 – 7 cups bone broth
  • 4 tablespoons grass fed butter
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 4-6 large carrots diced
  • 2 large ribs of celery diced
  • 6-8 cloves of garlic chopped (remove any green shoots)
  • ¼ cup dried nettle (or
  • Fresh flat leaf parsley chopped for garnish
  • Fresh scallion chopped for garnish
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and add butter, and swirl around until it foams. Add the onion, garlic, carrot, and celery and sauté for 5 minutes. Add your cubed/shredded chicken and cook for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Add the bone broth and nettles to the pot and turn up the heat until the soup begins to simmer. Turn down heat and gently simmer for 10-12 minutes until the carrots are fork tender. Serve and garnish with fresh parsley and scallions.

 

Stinging Nettle Saag Aloo

Recipe & Photo from mummyicancook.com

Ingredients

  • 4-6 new potatoes
  • 1 handful fresh coriander
  • 4 large bunches of stinging nettles (use gloves to handle)
  • 8 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2 green chilies, chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander
  • 1/2 cup organic full-fat yogurt
  • squeeze of lemon
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • unrefined sea salt
  • 2 tbsp of ghee, clarified butter

Directions:

Cook potatoes in boiling salted water for about 5 min, or cooked till just tender. Drain then cut into fairly equal-sized cubes. Over medium heat, add half the ghee, and fry the potato cubes, flipping till crispy on all edges.

With gloved hands, blanch nettles in boiling water for 1 min, uncovered. Drain. Refresh with cold water. Puree with the fresh coriander.

Over medium heat, add the ghee. Toast the whole spices. Add the onions plus pinch of salt, garlic and green chilies, and saute till the onions turn translucent, but aren’t browned, before sauteeing the ground spices till fragrant.

Add the pureed nettles, season and bring to a boil, before adding the yogurt and simmering gently for a couple more min. Return the fried potatoes to the pan, remove from heat, and gently toss to coat. Finish off with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of yogurt.

By: Claire

ClaireClaire Harlock Garber loves to eat and drink and write about it. She has worked in the food industry for nearly a decade and was on staff at the Skagit Valley Co-op from 2010-2018, writing the regular columns Skagit Brew Corner, The Cheese Whisperer, The Bounty of Bulk, and What's Dippin' in the Well for the Co-op's blog, as well as articles for the Natural Enquirer newsletter.