Despite being seen as weeds, stinging nettles, or ‘stingers’, are one of the most nutritious free greens around. Even better, they are plentiful and easy to find. Nettles have been used as both a food and a medicine for centuries.
Nettles can be found growing in many habitats, from woodland and grassland, to hedgerows and gardens.
Health benefits of Nettles
Nettles are a good
antihistamine, and regular consumption helps fight the symptoms of allergies such as hay fever. They have a diuretic effect that helps to get rid of toxins.
Nettle leaves have good amounts of vitamins A, C and D, and they are also a source of iron and calcium.
What do Nettles look like?
The foliage is a bright green when young and darkens as it matures. The leaves have serrated, zig-zag edges and they grow singly from the stem. The backs of the leaves and the stem is covered with fine, glass-like hairs, and they are responsible for the sting!
Nettle plants can grow up to over two feet tall.
Take care when foraging for stinging nettles. Wear a good set of gardening gloves and pick or snip the freshest foliage at the tips of the nettle.
How to eat Nettles
Treat nettles like any other leafy green, such as spinach, although they need to be cooked to eliminate the sting. Do this by blanching in hot water for a few seconds. A good way to start eating nettles is to pick some tips, wash them and cut with scissors. Add it to soups, stews or even a gravy, and the stinging hairs will go in the cooking process.
Nettles work well in most dishes. You can also steep nettle leaves to make a hot tea or allow to cool for a chilled beverage. If home-brewing is your thing, then why not try a nettle beer?
The nettle leaf tips can be dried, so you can have a good supply throughout the winter months.
Do you forage for nettles? What are your favourite recipes or uses for this nutritious plant?