I have been going crazy foraging stinging nettles lately. Nature's green gift to mankind, this edible plant, as known as the common nettle, pops up all over North America come spring. Stinging nettle plants are perennial plants and often seen as a pesky weed, but if you knew nettles you would know it was anything but that - except for maybe the stinging part which we'll get to in a minute.
Stinging nettle leaves are loaded in nutrients, and I mean loaded. Protein, magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium, and a multitude of vitamins, just to name a few. Stinging nettles may also help deal with hay fever as well as help treat high blood pressure and manage blood sugar. The best part is, you get all these health benefits for free! You just have to be willing to do a little bit of foraging.
Fresh stinging nettles can be found growing in clusters in sunny places with rich soil. When harvesting nettle leaves, it's best to do so when they first come up - no wilted nettles here. I also recommend foraging in places with less human traffic - meaning don't pick them off the side of the road. You want them as fresh as they can be.
When foraging leaves, pick the top leaves - these will be most tender - but not without gloves! Stinging nettles get their name for a reason, they sting. Grab the plant with your bare hands and you'll find you made the biggest mistake once these tiny little stinging hairs get in your skin. The stinging hairs are tipped with formic acid and other irritants, which can cause a burning sensation and hives. Anyone who has experienced this can tell you the side effects are not pleasant.
Now you're probably wondering, Will this sting when I eat it? The answer is no. Once you dry or cook nettles they lose this stinging sensation.
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AN ODE TO STINGING NETTLE 💕 2 pounds of fresh nettle, dehydrated at 90 F for 24 hours (while drinking fresh tea, of course) - most to nettle tea, 120 g into a salve, mixed with 1/3 cup honey, 60 g beeswax and 2 cups almond oil. I smell like pesto but my hands have never been softer. @scott1adair said the kitchen smelled like vegan 💨 #tofino #tucg #stingingnettle #concocting #diy #beauty #tea #stingingnettles #herbalism #myherbalstudies
Now that you know all about stinging nettles, lets get to the good part, the recipes! Thanks to their mild flavor, the woodsy-tasting leaves can be used in anything you would use a green. It can easily replace spinach, herbs, and other greens, and steal the show while it's at it.
And did I mention that it's free! What are you waiting for, grab your gloves, snatch some nettle leaves, and whip up one - or all - of these enticing stinging nettle recipes. Be forewarned, you're about to get the foraging bug.
1. Creamy Vegan Nettle Soup with Kale and Cauliflower
Every good food deserves its own soup recipe, and this is the one for nettles. The freshness of the nettles paired with the creaminess of the coconut milk, tang of apple cider vinegar, and all the extra veggies loaded in produces a savory bowl that will become a new staple. Get the recipe here.
Spanakopita, meet Nettlekopita. It's the same flaky, cheesy, greens filled filo dough Greek treat you love, with one exception - nettles. Even those that are on the fence about the whole weed eating thing will become fans after trying this. Get the recipe here.
3. Pizza with Garlic Cream and Nettles
What better to accompany your cheesy pizza toppings than a handful of nettle greens? Simple toppings yet totally satisfying, all you need is some fresh buffalo mozzarella, shaved parmesan, a creamy white wine sauce, and a handful of nettles. This here my friends is the pizza of spring. Get the recipe here.
4. Stinging Nettle and Ricotta Ravioli
This nettle ravioli is a great recipe for a spring dinner party, date night for two, or a weekend night when all you want to do is mess around in the kitchen.
Homemade ravioli pasta dough is stuffed with all the flavors of spring including arugula, fresh herbs, toasted hazelnuts, lemon zest, ricotta, chevre, and of course stinging nettles, then topped with a homemade baby greens lemon sauce. While it may take a little extra effort, the results are well worth the work. Get the recipe here.
5. Asparagus, Nettle, and Green Garlic Frittata
I love frittata! It's one of those recipes that all you need is half a dozen eggs and any vegetables lying around the kitchen. When you're out at the farmers market and back to home to enjoy some spring cooking, whip up the ultimate seasonal frittata with some fresh asparagus, green onions, and a handful of nettles.
Even if all you have is some garlic and onions left, you can still make a killer frittata by simply foraging some nettles. Get the recipe here.
6. Steamed Nettles with Toasted Sesame Seeds and Chive Blossoms
This steamed nettles recipe showcases just how amazing this superfood is. Simple and tasty, steam the nettles then drizzle sesame oil on top and toss in sesame seeds, chives, and a pinch of sea salt.
Serve as a side dish alongside a meal like an easy chicken dinner or eat all by itself. Just be sure to reserve the cooking broth for a soup or nettle tea. Get the recipe here.
Chef's Note: Be sure to only use the leaves and remove any tough stems.
7. Spring Nettles with Garlic Lemon White Beans
Awesome dishes don't always have to require a ton of work. Enter this ultimate budget meal, Spring Nettles with Garlic Lemon White Beans. This nutrient dense dish is packed with flavor and incredibly cheap to make.
All you need is a can of white beans - northern, navy, or garbanzo beans work too - garlic, fresh nettle leaves, lemon juice, olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Whether you're on a budget, trying to eat healthier, or want an easy meal, this is one to add to the rotation. Get the recipe here.
8. Pickled Nettles
If you have an addiction to pickling everything, then you are going to go nuts over pickling nettles. The trick here is to try it with apple cider vinegar and experiment with different spices. Use this on a sandwich, omelette, pizza, pasta salad, or eat it right out of the jar. Get the recipe here.
9. Nettle Pesto with Pine Nuts
Not all pesto has to be basil based. There's spinach pesto, arugula pesto, broccoli pesto, and yes, even nettle pesto.
Put it in your pasta, lather it on your baked chicken, sandwich it in your grilled cheese, dip your bread in it, or eat it by the spoonful with no shame. Seriously tasty, you'll want to put this on everything. Get the recipe here.
10. Nettle Beer
People do all kinds of crazy things with beer. They put fried chicken in it, douse it with mace, and dazzle it up with glitter. So why not experiment more with perennials and toss in some nettles? Five ingredients and a couple weeks later and you can have the beer meant for toasting to spring. Get the recipe here.
11. Nettle Cake
Right now you're probably feeling inspired to go outdoors and do some foraging. Let me give you yet another reason with this gorgeous Nettle Cake.
Inspired by Japanese tradition Hanami - tree blossom observing - this Pacific Northwesterner take on moss is not only creatively decorated, but the use of nettle leaf puree and sweet taste will totally transform your perception of what makes great cakes. Get the recipe here.
12. Raw Chocolate Cupcakes with Nettle Frosting
Can't get the kids to eat their greens? I bet with these nettle frosted cupcakes you will. Gorgeously green, these are grain-free, vegan, and super yummy. Get the recipe here.
13. Nettle Seed & Dandelion Blossom Bars
Nutrient dense natural wildcrafted bars like these Nettle Seeds & Dandelion bars are the snack you need to fuel you up. Just the right hint of sweetness, these bars are packed with dandelion blossoms, cashews, almonds, sesame seeds, candied ginger, dried apricots, and nettle seeds.
If you are the kind to skip breakfast or often need a powering snack to recharge, you'll be happy you have these. Get the recipe here.
And remember, don't forget to wear gloves!