Eating the Stinging Nettle

1 Jul

The aggressive but humble nettle has been used since the Bronze Age for food, medicine, fibre and dyes.  Nettles have countless nutritional benefits due to the high levels of vitamins, minerals and protein along with aiding hay fever, asthma, colds and blood clotting.

Nettles always grow in the same places each year and should be gathered in spring before they flower and can also be gathered in autumn as fresh ones appear.

Some expert foragers have discovered ways of grasping nettles without being stung.  However for the less fearless, the best method is to use the rubber gloves or a plastic bag and scissors. 

The younger leaves are the best part of the plant. They come off most easily if stripped from the top down.  Ideally pick a large quantity of nettles and freeze some for use during the winter.

Nettles should be picked from areas away from roads and animals to prevent any contamination.  Clean and chop nettles using rubber gloves, once the nettles have been cooked slightly the stingers are deactivated. The needles will be destroyed by cooking, steeping, or drying, but not by freeze-drying or juicing.

If over cooked, nettles may develop a bitter taste.  Nettles are often boiled which is the worst way to cook the leaves.  If making a nettle soup the leaves are to only be simmered for 5-10 minutes, any other method is better suited such as frying or using in a baked dish. Any recipe involving spinach can be replaced with nettles.

Nettle and Walnut Pest

A large bunch of nettles/spinach

1 tablespoon of olive oil

75g Walnuts

1 Garlic clove

150ml Extra virgin olive oil

50g Mature Balllintubber chedder with chives

Juice of ½ a lemon

Pinch of sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

  1. Place a tablespoon of oil into a frying pans, add the nettles and fry until reduced in size.  This will destroy the stinging hairs.
  2. Place the nettles, walnut and garlic into a food processor or blender and pulse into coarse grains.
  3. Gradually add the extra virgin olive oil in a steady stream until a thick grainy paste has been created.
  4. Scrape the mixture into a bowl.  Add the cheese and lemon and adjust the seasoning to taste.

Nettle and Potato Gratin

A large bunch of nettles/spinach

8 Medium sized potatoes

A knob of butter

1 tablespoon Olive oil

2 Onions finely chopped

2 Garlic cloves

250ml Cream

100ml Vegetable stock

Sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

For the topping:

4 Slices stale bread

50g Walnuts, hazel nuts or pine nuts

25g Melted butter

50g Mature cheddar

  1. Peel and boil potatoes for ten minutes until half cooked, strain, allow to cool and cut into thin slices.
  2. Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan.  Add the chopped garlic and onions and cook until soft.  Poor the cream and vegetable stock into the frying pan and simmer gently until reduced to half its size.  Add the nettles and cook until the nettles have reduced in volume.
  3. Layer the potatoes into an oven dish and pour the cream sauce and nettles over each layer of potatoes.

For the topping:

  1. Break up the four slices of bread and gradually add to a food processor.
  2. Add the walnuts, cheese and melted butter to the food processor.
  3. Place the breadcrumbs evenly over the gratin and place into a preheated oven of 190o C/ Gas mark 5 and bake for 30 minutes.


Fried Garlic Nettles

A large bunch of nettles/ spinach

3 Garlic cloves

2 rashers

A knob of butter

1 tablespoon of olive oil

Sea salt

Freshly ground butter

  1. Place butter and oil into frying pan.
  2. Cut rashers into small pieces and add to frying pan along with slices of garlic.
  3. Add sea salt and pepper.
  4. Add nettles and fry until reduced in size.
  1. Serve immediately as a side or allow to cool for a salad.

10 Responses to “Eating the Stinging Nettle”

  1. emmmmerz July 2, 2012 at 2:28 am #

    Reblogged this on Recipe Box.

  2. Medina Tenour Whiteman July 6, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

    That pesto looks amazing!! I’ve been told that clumps of nettles in random places among fields (in Europe anyway) are a sure sign of Roman settlements, as they only grow in fertile soil (so wherever there was habitation, there was compost, poo etc). One time my husband made a nettle soup when I was ill and it tasted very strong, so we froze it in an ice-cube tray and melted them as a ‘cup-a-soup’ with boiling water whenever we were feeling coldy. Worked a treat. Thanks for the detailed blog post – I also loved your enormous gingerbread house – that would certainly tempt Hansel and Gretel…!

  3. gardensunshine July 7, 2012 at 3:17 pm #

    I have always wanted to eat this! But i cannot find stinging nettle anywhere around here. Great free food. Wonderful that you have a steady supply. Great Recipes!

  4. staceyweichert July 7, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

    I aways joke that if I could sell Nettles–I would make a fortune!!!!! I’ve been tempted to try cooking with before, but your recipes just may send me to the kitchen. Thanks for the great info.

  5. Karen Berthine July 7, 2012 at 9:24 pm #

    This is wonderful! They grew easily 🙂 on our property when we lived n Norway. I remember watching a show about the nutritional value of nettles- also included a demo on making soup from it. I never did and wish I had, I must say, your recipes look far tastier.

  6. ediblethings July 9, 2012 at 12:46 am #

    The last one is my all time favourite way to eat nettles. So much tastier than spinach or cabbage. I really think everyone should sauté some in butter and garlic at least once in their lives

  7. Tasha Miller Griffith July 11, 2012 at 7:34 am #

    I had an unfortunate run-in with stinging nettles on vacation in the UK, it’s good to know they have redeeming values. I will definitely taste some if I get a chance!

  8. makecraftsandeatmuffins July 20, 2012 at 9:10 am #

    Those look delicious, especially the pesto! i make it with ramsons usually, but they are out of season now. did you know that to eat nettles straight off the plant, you can touch the bottoms without gloves, fold the nettle in half, which stops the stings, roll it into a ball and eat it! its very tasty.

    • countrychickcrafts July 20, 2012 at 9:17 am #

      You know I have heard of that but I just do not have the courage to try it, I don’t even have the courage to pick them without gloves!

  9. Melinda July 24, 2012 at 5:20 pm #

    Yummy recipes for an under-rated wild food. The fanciest I’ve had them is steamed with some butter.

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