One thing I remember reading in the copious amounts of Victorian-era fiction that I read is how often book characters ate nettles. This always confused me, because in my mind, nettles were simply painful weeds used by my siblings and me only to pull up with our bare hands to prove how tough we were. So that is why the idea of eating nettles confused me.
However, it turns out that nettles are a sneaky plant that is actually amazingly delicious once you get past all those prickles. The flavor is similar to a mild spinach, and nettles are amazing at fighting inflammation and contain a ton of nutrients like potassium, calcium, vitamin A, iron, magnesium, and the elusive vitamin B-6. The secret to utilizing nettles is simply to cook them- once cooked, the prickles disappear and the histamines that make you sneeze and itch are removed.
Essential Tips for Avoiding the Sting
Nettles try to kill you. That is a science fact. They contain histamines and barbs that can make even grown adults cry. If you try to pluck the nettles and eat them raw, you will be sorry and your hands will be numb and sore for days. Do not do this. Always use rubber or leather gloves when ethically harvesting and preparing wild nettles for eating.
There are basically three ways to process nettles before you can eat them safely. Your options are:
After washing the nettles, you can use any of the above three methods to remove the burrs. You can use a dehydrator to quickly dry the nettles, or a food processor to pulverize them. Cooking is fairly self-explanatory, I believe. :-)
Delicious Nettle Recipes
Now for the moment you have been waiting for: how to actually use nettles as food!
Basically, you can use nettles any place you might use spinach or any other green. It’s not weird once you start thinking of it like spinach rather than a weed. I’ve found some rather inventive ways to use nettles in food across the web. My favorites are listed below.
I loved purred soups, and soup is one of the most famous ways to prepare nettles. This recipe from My Yoga Online combines nettles, onions, garlic, and potatoes for a delicious soup that packs an anti-inflammatory punch.
Nettle Side Dish
According to Hunter Gatherer, nettles are best as a side dish when sautéed. I would cook them lightly with butter, garlic, and some seasoning. Cook it too much and you will end with a pile of mush.
Nettles contain a variety of vitamins and minerals essential for health. Women can benefit especially from the iron, magnesium, and vitamins found in nettles. Rather than always eating them, however, drinking nettles in a refreshing tea blend is a great way to add the benefits of nettles to your diet. I like how this recipe adds peppermint to counteract the bitterness of the dandelion and nettles.
Your liver is necessary for balancing many of the body’s systems- including your hormones and metabolism. A functioning liver is essential for a healthy body. If you have not always treated your liver kindly, you may want to try this nettle detox found on The Untrained Housewife to cleanse and detox the liver.
We recently started making our own homemade ravioli (super-fun), and using nettles as a filling would be perfect! I like their way of cutting out the ravioli with a cookie cutter. Our way took ages.
Want to learn more about edible wild food? We recommend this ebook: Free Food from Foraging (Amazon).
I’ve seen this on several sites- just add nettles to the top of the pizza as if it were spinach before baking. I think this would be delicious with goat cheese, chicken, and garlic.
All right, so this is pretty out-there, but when I saw this recipe for a nettle sorbet, I had to include it. Similar to the flavor of green-tea sorbet, only the most flavor adventurous will love this recipe. Also on this page is a recipe for nettle pesto, which may fit the tastes of less-adventurous families better.
So now, rather than curse the nettles that pop up in your yard, you may actually start protecting them so you can serve them for dinner! However, do not eat nettles that grow in pesticide-treated areas.
Do you eat nettles? What is your favorite way to prepare them?