Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is growing everywhere right now!
If you’re feeling adventurous and you want to get out into the forest and meadows you can find them popping up all over this time of year. You can also find them being sold at some health food stores, so look around and you might get lucky.
Incorporating nettles into your diet this time of year is a wonderful way to eat organic, local and seasonal.
Nettles are the perfect spring food. They contain high levels of iron, minerals, silicon, and vitamins C and A. To learn more about the medicinal qualities of nettle watch my Wellness Wednesday video about nutritive herbs here.
Nettles can be eaten and used medicinally as a tonic for a boost of nutrition, for chronic skin problems, and for general detoxification. They’re a great blood purifier because they primarily target the liver and kidneys.
The best way to use nettle is to harvest the tender tops when the plant is around 6-18 inches tall. Use scissors and clip off the tops of the young spring plant. It’s a good idea to use gloves as the plant leaves a sting on the skin.
If you’re not familiar with this plant find a knowledgeable friend or use a good plant ID book. Nettles are pretty easy to find because they have a sting, so be careful!
To deactivate the sting cook the nettles in boiling water for 2- 4 minutes and them use in cooking.
Once you’ve harvested nettles there are many ways to incorporate them into your cooking.
Start by lightly steaming nettles as the cooking process will deactivate the sting. Use the cooking water for tea or save it and use it in soup.
You can also blend nettles with other spring greens in a juice or smoothie.
If cooking the nettles, use them as you would any other green. Nettles shrink when cooked, similar to other greens like spinach, so be sure to cook enough.
Below you’ll find a favourite recipe of mine for a spring pesto made of nettles. Pour this pesto over pasta, toss with a few other spring veggies like zucchini, sugar snap peas, asparagus or arugula, and enjoy!
Nettle Nesto Recipe
4 handfuls of nettles
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 juice of a lemon
1/3 cup olive oil salt & pepper
Cook the nettles for 2-4 minutes.
Strain the water (keep this water for nettle tea -- very nutritious and delicious).
Throw all of the ingredients into a food processor except the olive oil.
Once everything is combined, slowly add the olive oil until the desired consistency is achieved.
Serve however you use pesto -- with pasta, on bread, in other dips.
If you want to save some for later add some extra olive oil on the top and store in the fridge.