Nettles are one of spring’s most enticing traditional herbs, and are also a delicious wild food. Nettles are an annual plant found in wooded areas and forests, in natural grasslands, along fertile fields and riverbanks, and along shaded trails. Nettles can be thought of as springtime’s green superfood, packed with minerals and vitamins.
Nettles are a great source for wildcrafting in terms of sustainability since they are a naturally spreading weed. If you have a nettle patch that you visit often or one growing in your garden, frequent harvests will ensure second growths, making it a viable plant all summer long.
When they are young they are full of fresh juicy goodness just waiting to be eaten!
Adding nettles into your wellness routine and diet not only gives you essential nutrients that your body needs but they support healthy tissue states and sinuses. Fresh nettle is always found on an herbalists’ lists when it comes to supporting healthy eyes, nose, lungs, and sinuses. Some favorite ways to use them include a fresh nettle tea, cold infusion if you can or fresh nettle juice!
Cooking with Nettles
Nettles are delicious in many spring recipes — from soups to salads, pizzas, and pastas. They are a great stand-in for greens like chard or spinach in certain recipes—soups, pastas and warm grain dishes, as well as treats like nettle tart or quiche.
- Harvest the top cluster of young nettles (the top 5” or so) as they are the most juicy. They are tender when young and easy to harvest!
- Wear gloves when harvesting if you don’t want to get stung; or, get to know the sting and harvest bare handed. Once you trust the plant, the sting backs off a bit.
- And of course, make sure they are nettles! Get a local plant book if you are unsure or talk to an herbalist. Often the sting will help you identify them.
After you harvest, wash and drain, discarding stems. Nettles may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. After cooking, handling and eating nettles is an entirely sting-free experience.
Here are a few fun recipes to try out this spring:
Makes 12 cupcakes
A fun project to do with kiddos because they turn bright green!
- 3 cups nettle tops- blanched in hot water and pureed= about 1 cup of nettle puree
- ¼ cup coconut oil- melted
- ¼ cup maple syrup + 2 tbls.
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup flour
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- Lemon zest
. . .
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Combine all dry ingredients into a bowl and set aside.
- Place the nettle leaves in a pot of boiling water and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until nettles are wilted. Drain through a colander and press to eliminate any excess water.
- Use a blender or cuisinart to make a puree out of the fresh nettle tops. Blend for 2-3 minutes until smooth.
- Add the remaining wet ingredients and combine with the dry.
- Pour into cupcake tins and bake for 12-14 minutes. Insert a toothpick into the center to make sure they are cooked through.
- Let cool before frosting.
Lemon Butter Cream Frosting
While we like to make healthy substitutes whenever we can, this lemony buttercream frosting is the original butter and sugar combination with extra lemon!
- ½ cup butter- softened.
- 1.5 cup confectioners sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Lemon peel zest and juice from one lemon
Beat on high until the frosting is well mixed. Add more lemon depending on your preference.
Nettle Potato Leek Soup
Makes 5-6 servings
- 5-6 medium sized potatoes, cubed. A mix of potato varieties is great and balances the flavor of the soup.
- 3 leeks- chopped, without the green tops
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 stalks of celery, chopped
- 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups fresh nettle tops, chopped
- 2 quarts of broth- bone or vegetable
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ tsp thyme
- 2 tablespoons butter or high heat stable oil
- Ground fresh pepper
- Salt to taste
- Garnish ideas: Toasted nuts, olive oil, sour cream, parsley
. . .
- Saute the leeks and onions in the butter for 5 minutes, or until they become slightly soft.
- Add in the potatoes, garlic and celery, and cover the pot.
- Let the vegetables saute and “sweat” for another 5 minutes. Add in the nettles, broth and spices.
- Turn to low heat and cook until the potatoes are soft.
- Turn off the heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
- Transfer to a blender or use a handheld one to blend to desired consistency.
- Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve hot!
- Top with olive oil and other suggested toppings (above.)
Makes 1 cup
- 2 cups packed fresh nettle leaves (or a combination of parsley, nettle, cilantro or basil leaves- a mix can be nice!)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup walnuts
- 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino or parmesan cheese
- Lemon juice to taste
Place all ingredients in a cuisinart or blender, and blend until creamy.
Add more or less salt and lemon juice to taste.
Serve on pastas, with crackers or bread and cheese.
Fresh Nettle Juice
Fresh juice with fresh nettles- there’s nothing quite like it!
One of our favorite things to do with nettles in the spring is to incorporate them into juices or smoothies. You can juice them fresh and the sting goes away.
Or add them to smoothies after you blanch them! The result is similar in texture and taste to adding spinach into your smoothies.
Pictured: Romaine lettuce, kale, nettles, cucumber, golden beets, spinach, lemon, orange and apple smoothie.