Wild Edibles – Nettle

May 27, 2015

Spring has sprung and the landscape is coming alive. The garden is just starting to poke up, but already nature has provided plenty of wild edibles – dandelions, plantain, Sheppard’s purse, morels and my favourite, stinging nettle.

Stinging Nettle

Stinging Nettle

I have been reading The Boreal Herbal Wild Food and Medicine Plants of the North by Beverley Gray. I am astounded by the many benefits and ways to use nettle. So far, however, I only use the young leaves in smoothies, tea and pesto. (recipes following) Nettle is high in calcium, iron, and many other minerals and vitamins. It is great for relieving allergy symptoms, so if you feel a sniffle of hay fever coming on, have a nice cup of nettle tea or a nettle smoothie.

Nettle is covered with tiny hairs. At the base of each hair is a tiny sack containing formic acid. When you touch the hairs, the formic acid is release, causing a stinging sensation, so be sure to wear gloves when you pick it. To use the nettle, strip the leaves off the stalk wearing gloves, and wash them well with plenty of water. I find that is sufficient to get rid of the formic acid and I can handle the washed leaves without issue. Cooking and drying also get rid of the acid.

Drying nettle on a screen

Drying nettle on a screen

Since I only use the young leaves, in order to have a supply of nettle for the entire year, I have been drying the leaves. (to dry, after washing place on a screen out of direct sunlight. They should dry in about 24 hours) Once dried, store in a plastic bag or glass jar. They can be crushed and added to smoothies or tea.

Dried Nettle

Dried Nettle

Nettle Smoothie (use nettle instead of spinach in your favourite smoothie)

  • 2 cups fresh nettle leaves, washed
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups frozen mango
  • Juice of ½ lemon

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Nettle Pesto

  • 4 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup hemp seeds
  • ½ cup pine nuts (or substitute walnuts, pecans or sunflower seeds)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2 cups fresh nettle leaves, washed and dried

Add all ingredients, except nettle to a food processor. Add one cup nettle. Blend until ingredients start moving smoothly. Add the second cup of nettle and process until smooth and pesto like. If necessary, add a bit extra oil to get things moving. Taste and adjust salt and nutritional yeast to taste. Serve on pasta, bread or raw zucchini noodles.

The stalks of the nettle plant are incredibly tough and can be used to make rope or a linen like thread. When Ken was in Italy last year he brought me back a shirt made entirely from nettle cloth. Its very light and comfortable (and died with licorice). He really knows the way to this girls heart.


About Darlene & Ken

Experiencing life off the grid, building a home, and trying to live sustainably.
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