Herbal Branch 5: Stinging Nettles the Super Food?

NettlesYes, the stinging nettle (Urtica dioica.) This is no April Fools joke.

And, some of you will think I’m really strange for wanting to eat the plant that can cause such discomfort when you accidentally brush against it.

Early spring is my favorite time of the year because I can harvest nettles and many other wild herbs. As I discuss in Roots and Branches, the best way to use herbs as medicine is to use them as food. We all know that an important part of staying healthy is to eat well. Vibrant food is our best medicine. Many of our wild herbs are far more nutritious than the vegetables we buy in the grocery stores.

Did you know that nettles contain the highest plant source of iron? It is an EXCELLENT source of vitamins, minerals and protein. It is literally a “super-food.” Forget all these designer capsules and energy drinks. Nettles are far more nutritious, and they are FREE!

This is where it gets hard for people, but I make it easy.

There are a lot of people who have heard this about wild plants such as nettles and dandelions, but I know you may be asking yourself, “How do I find nettle, gather it, and actually use this plant?”

This is EXACTLY what LearningHerbs.com is all about.

I am going to make this REALLY easy.

First, I will tell you how to cook with nettles. (Bear with me, I’m going to work backwards here.)

I could list a bunch of recipes, but instead I am going to simply tell you to find any recipe you like that calls for greens, such as spinach or kale. Then, replace those greens with nettles.

Get out your favorite soup, stew, quiche, lasagna, pesto or even spanakopita recipe, and replace the greens in the recipe with nettles.

Kimberly actually made Nettle Spanakopita as a potluck dish at our friends wedding this Spring! It was all eaten up by the time I made it through the food line. :( In case you were wondering, she simply used the recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook and replaced spinach with nettles.

Heck, you can simply steam nettles and serve them as a delicious side dish. Sprinkling some Parmesan cheese on top is really nice.

What about the stings?!?!?!

Good question. Definitely use gloves to transport the nettles to your pan or pot, but as soon as it begins to cook, the sting goes away. The sting quickly dissipates once you steam or cook it.

How do I pick nettles?

I know there is the real barrier separating people from harvesting nettles. Here are the instructions:

Nettle harvesting instructions