I have been wanting to try nettles (for food and medicine) for many years but the only place I know they are growing is my in-laws’ property. They won’t leave them there long enough for me to harvest! One of these days, I WILL show up at the right time to snag some before they get rid of them!
Here’s some wonderful information about nettles by Melana Hiatt, followed by a few recipes:
All my life, trips to the river bottom land around our place meant a dance with my old arch enemy the stinging nettle. Bright welts and a dash for cool river mud to kill the sting where a normal part of my day. Rubbing a fresh dock leaf on a nettle sting is also supposed to help relieve the “bite”. I tried it on a few occasions but got the idea both the dock and the nettle plants where laughing uproariously at my attempts to kill the sting and I hit the river mud anyway. Imagine my fiendish joy when I found out I could return the favor and bite the nettle plants back!
Nettles are very wide spread, especially in moist fertile soils along disturbed areas, stream and river beds, woodland trails, road sides and vacant lots. The stinging nettle is a perennial which reaches the height of up to 3.2 feet with an erect stem covered in bristly, stinging hairs. Leaves are opposite, long and broadest near the base and coarsely toothed. Flowers produce in the junction of leaf stalks and each flower is tiny, male or female, loosely branched, elongated and forms in clusters. Fruits are tiny and inconspicuous. At a glance I think a nettle resembles a sprawling mint and the surest way to be sure you have the correct plant is to touch it. This causes a reaction similar to a bug bite and can be very annoying if not painful.
Nettle “tea” is great for your garden and house plants. My tomatoes thrive on it and give me better results than with any store bought fertilizer. Simply place fresh nettles in a bucket (1/4 to 1/2 full) and cover with hot (not boiling) water. Let this seep for several days, then water your garden and veggie plants with the resulting “tea”. This concoction really reeks so I water my plants towards evening and if a neighbor peeks over the fence to see where the smell is coming from I hold my nose with one hand and motion towards the opposite neighbors back yard.
Most grazing animals will not eat live nettles unless starving, but when dried and introduced to livestock fed it is consumed avidly. It will promote shinier coats on horse, richer milk in cows and increase the food value of eggs. Powdered nettle leaves are reported to actually be as rich in protein as cotton-seed meal. When I lived in the country I gave dried nettles to my chickens every occasion I had and they loved it.
Manure from nettle fed livestock is also improved and make a great fertilizer for your garden and flower beds. Nettles also make a great additive to your compost heap having 7% nitrogen, (figured on dry-weight basis). Old timers from home always said the best place to plant a new orchard or garden was where nettles grew as the soil is very rich and fertile. I moved soil from a nettle patch to my flower bed one time and the plants in the area where the soil was placed grew like crazy!
To harvest wear gloves and collect the tops of new plants in the early spring long before the plant blooms, clipping with scissors and placing tops directly in a paper sack. Plants harvested should be less than a foot high for the best results. As with any plant there is a proper time for harvesting. You wouldn’t eat a peach before it is ripe or cook asparagus that was ferny and mature, nor should the nettle be harvested for consuming past it’s time. Nettles harvest in late season will be tough and gritty. Cutting back the plants will promote fresh growth but these prove to be too tough for consumption as a pot herb.
Boiling destroys the stinging properties of nettles. For a pot herb, wash collected nettles in the sink, stirring with a long handled wooden spoon and transferring rinsed nettles to a pot using tongs. Barely cover the nettle tops with water and simmer until tender. Drain, add seasoning and enjoy. The water left over from cooking makes a fine tea full of vitamin A and C that is very pleasing with just a bit of lemon and sugar. A simple nettle puree can be made by cooking the nettles as described above and placing in your food processor. When completely minced return to heat, add 2 tablespoons butter, salt to taste and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup light cream, pepper to taste before serving. Great over noodles.
I make a lot of nettle puree and freeze it in small containers to be used as a soup base latter in the winter months. Simply thaw, add diced mushrooms, diced onions, grated or finely chopped carrots, minced garlic, and herbs of your choice. Simmer and thin with milk, or thicken with a white sauce, add 2 or 3 slices of American cheese and serve topped with freshly chopped parsley.
Cooked nettle juice is regarded as a good rennet (milk coagulant) for junket pudding and as a beer ingredient. Nettle Junket can be made by heating 1 pint of milk in a double boiler until lukewarm. Stir in 2 tablespoons of sugar, ½ teaspoon of vanilla, and 1 teaspoon of salted nettle juice. Pure this into glass dishes from which this dessert will be eaten from, and chill until serving. Add different flavors such as chocolate or almond extract, whatever suits your fancy. Chilled junket can be topped with fresh fruit or berries and makes a wonderful dessert.
Nettle pudding, which is not a dessert, but rather a hearty main dish is made by cooking 2 cups nettle tops as described previously. Add one cup chopped onion, 1 cup chopped cabbage (or substitute broccoli, Chinese cabbage, carrots or other hardy vegetable), 1 cup raw rice, 1 cup ground beef and 1/2 cup beef suit. Season with salt, pepper and chopped parsley. (Herbs used can be totally up to you, do a little experimenting to see what you like best). Mix well then tie mixture up in a muslin cloth and hang over boiling water bath and steam for 3 hours. Remove finished product and serve with gravy.
- 4 quarts freshly picked nettles
- 2 gallons water
- 2 lemons, cut in thin slices
- 2 ounces crushed dried ginger root
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 1 cake yeast
Boil gently the nettles, lemon and ginger in the 2 gallons of water for 40 minutes. Strain liquid and add brown sugar. Allow to cool to barely luke warm and dissolve yeast in one cup of the liquid and then stir into the whole batch. Bottle immediately and cap tightly. Store in a dark cool place for a few days then refrigerate until as cold as possible before serving. This will foam like crazy if opened while warm so be sure to cool before serving!
- 1 1/2 tsp butter
- 1/2 lb lamb or beef bones
- freshly ground black pepper
- 12 oz nettles
Heat butter in a large skillet and add the bones. Cover and cook over medium heat, turning occasionally, until well browned on all sides. Add 1 cup water, 1/2 tsp pepper, and a pinch of salt, and simmer, uncovered, 10 mins. There should only be about 1-2 Tb thick intensely flavored meat juices left in the skillet. Discard the bones.
Meanwhile, wash, stem, and drain the greens. Cook, covered, in a saucepan until wilted, about 5 mins. (NOTE: hard, acrid greens should be blanched awhile in plenty of boiling water.) Immediately drain and refresh under cold running water. Squeeze dry and roughly chop. Reheat the reduced juices. Add the greens and cook gently, stirring, 5 mins. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pile the greens onto a shallow serving dish, Make your favorite herb sauce to garnish and serve. I like a nice herbed cheese sauce or any sauce that is light but tasty.
- 1 tbs. butter
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 whole large leek, chopped
- 3 cups nettle greens, finely chopped
- Freshly ground pepper
- 2 eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- 2 1/2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Heat the butter in a large sauté pan, add the garlic and leek, and toss in the hot butter 3 to 4 minutes. Add all the greens, salt and pepper. Cover the pot to draw the water out of the vegetables. Remove the pot lid and cook, stirring occasionally until all the water has evaporated. Cool completely. Beat the eggs, egg yolks, and cooked greens together. Make a well in the flour. Put the egg/greens mixture in the well. Add the salt. Draw the flour into the egg mixture. Knead into a smooth dough approximately 10 minutes; flour your hands lightly if the flour is too wet or moisten them with a little extra egg if the flour is too dry. Either cut the dough into about six pieces and run through a pasta rolling machine until smooth and dry, or continue to knead for a few more minutes by hand to get the same effect. From here on in, you can follow your favorite method for turning the dough into noodles, either stretching it by hand or using a machine.
I did a search on the web for nettle recipes, looking for things to add to this paper. The following recipe is one I have had for ages. But I found the exact same one on a site that swore it was a Swedish recipe and again another site that said it was a French recipe. All I know for sure is it is a GOOD recipe.
- 1 medium onion
- 3 to 4 cloves of garlic
- 3 potatoes
- olive oil
- large handful of washed nettle leaves (1/4 to 1/2 pound – a little more if using dried nettle)
- 1 chicken bouillon cube
- 1/2 pint half and half
- 2 tablespoons chives
- Salt and pepper to taste
Peel and chop the onion, garlic, and potatoes. In a large saucepan, cover the bottom with a little olive oil and sauté the vegetables for 4 minutes. Remove from heat. Using gloves, trim the nettle leaves from the stems (if using fresh nettle leaves). Add them to the saucepan. Then make stock with the bouillon cube and 1 1/2 pints of boiling water. Add the stock to the saucepan and bring to a rapid boil. Continue to boil for 15 minutes, uncovered. Add the contents of the pan to a blender. Add the half and half. Blend until the mixture is a thick soup. Turn into serving bowl, add the chives and salt and pepper. Serve.
I have heard rumors of nettle bread over the years but have never seen a recipe. If anyone happens across on and can send it my way I would deeply appreciate it.
When I began my web search for additional information on nettle I found almost as many sites dedicated to getting rid of nettles as I found sites discussing the glories of this plant. I wish now I had book marked the nettle hater sites so I could send them a link to this page so the can discover the saintly side of this annoying herb.
Onion Nettle Soup
- 4 cups water
- 1 medium onion diced
- 1/4 cup dried nettles (Urtica dioica)
- 2 Tablespoons bullion (Any type will do depending
on your personal tastes)
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- pepper to taste
Bullion is high in sodium so you shouldn’t need more salt. Place water in a pot and add nettles. While this is, dice your onion and add to the water. Bring to a rolling boil and add bullion, garlic powder and pepper. Allow to boil for 1-2 minutes then reduce heat and allow to simmer for at least 5 minutes.
This is both a soothing broth as well as a good batch of vitamins to give your system the boost it needs to fight off whatever has you down. Not being a person that takes vitamins I depend totally on my diet for giving my body what it needs. Nettles are a good source of Vitamin C, beta carotene, provitamin A and mineral salts.
Green Nations Herb Bread
- 1 c white or wheat flour
- 2-2 1/2 cups assorted grain flours of your choice (or more white/wheat flour if you wish)
- 1/2 to 1 cup assorted herbs*
- 2 T sugar
- 1.5 t salt
- 1.25 oz yeast (1 pkg.)
- 1.25 c milk
- 2 T vegetable oil
- 1 egg
In a large bowl combine 1 c flour, sugar, salt and yeast and set aside. In small saucepan heat milk and vegetable oil until lukewarm. Be careful not to get your milk and oil too hot or it will kill the yeast. Add egg and warm liquid to flour mixture and mix well. Allow to set for 3-5 minutes.
With wooden spoon stir in herbs and remaining flour to make a soft dough. Turn dough out onto lightly floured board. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if needed. Dough should be elastic without being overly sticky or stiff.
Place dough in warm greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm place, free from draft, until doubled in bulk, 45-60 min. Punch down dough, knead and place on a pizza pan or cookie sheet, cover with a tea towel and allow to rise again to double it’s size. If you feel fancy, sprinkle sesame, poppy or dill seed on top before baking. Heat oven to 400 degrees and bake for 35-40 minutes or until done.
Serve this bread warm with butter and honey.
* Herbs used are totally up to you but some suggestions are: cracked fennel seed, dill, sesame seed, cumin, rosemary, basil, parsley or on the wild front try dried dandelion greens, nettle greens, lamb’s quarter greens or seed, amaranth greens or seed. Where you go, only stops with the imagination.
Source: Wild Greens and Salads, by Christopher Nyerges, 1982
(via Grandma Nea)
- 4 c. tender young nettle tops
- Garlic powder
Carefully collect the youngest, most tender tops of the nettle plant. Use gloves or a brown paper bag for collecting.
Steam or boil the nettle until tender. Drain, lightly season with garlic powder, and serve with butter. These are most delicious if the plant is still tender when collected.
Serves 2 or 3.
Came across a recipe I loved last year..it’s almost time for nettles here:
Harvest nettles before they produce flowers. (Using rubber gloves will protect your hands) Was and fill a small jar to the top with fresh nettle. Pour apple cider vinegar to the top.( I’ve used white wine vinegar too..yum) Afix some plastic wrap over the top of the jar and then add the lid..this helps with the vinegar reacting with metal…Steep 4 weeks. Strain.. also..great with a combination of greens as they come into season.
Nettle is so high in minerals..great food!
Creamy Nettle and Potato Soup
Source: Chef Daniel DeLong in the May, 2001 issue of Food & Wine
- 6 T unsalted butter
- 4 medium shallots, coarsely chopped
- 4 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
- 1 large leek, white and tender green parts only, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
- 1 1/4 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 1/4 c. dry white wine
- 1 T fresh lemon juice
- 4 1/4 cups water
- Bouquet garni, made with 1 thyme sprig, 1 tarragon sprig, and 1 bay leaf, tied with kitchen string
- 1/2 c. heavy cream
- 10 ounces nettles or spinach or 1 bunch (5 ounces) flat-leaf parsley and
1 bunch (4 ounces) sorrel, stems and tough ribs removed
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper
1. Melt 4 T. of the butter in a large, heavy saucepan. Add the shallots, celery, leek and potatoes, cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 min. Add the wine and lemon juice and cook over high heat until evaporated. Add 4 cups of the water and the bouquet garni and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over moderately low heat until the vegetables are tender, about 15 min. Discard the bouquet garni.
2. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender or food processor until smooth. Strain the soup into a clean saucepan through a fine sieve. Stir in the heavy cream.
3. Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the nettles and cook just until wilted. Drain the nettles and immediately plunge them into a medium bowl of ice water. Transfer the nettles to the blender or food processor and puree them with the remaining 1/4 cup of water. Strain the nettle puree into the soup and season with salt and white pepper. Bring the soup to a simmer over low heat, stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter until melted and serve the soup right away.
Make Ahead: The soup can be refrigerated for two days.