Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is a plant that most people try to avoid. But did you know it’s actually quite healthy? Put on some gardening gloves and grasp the nettle!
If you like kale or spinach, you’ll probably like nettle too. It’s rich in vitamin A, C, D, K, and iron and is very tasty. You probably won’t want to eat it raw as you can imagine, but it’s great in soups, blanched, or as a tea.
How do I recognize nettles?
Fortunately, nettles aren’t too hard to distinguish from other plants. We’ve all been stung once or twice and know to stay away from them!
Stinging nettles can get up to 2 meters high. Its drooping leaves are oval and toothed, and there are little hairs, like needles, on the bottom of these leaves. The stem also has hairs on it. Make sure not to touch them with bare skin – I’d recommend you wear long pants, sleeves, solid shoes and gloves when harvesting stinging nettle.
Medical use of nettles
I can’t remember who it was, but someone once told me that nettle tea helps get rid of UTI’s. Since then I’ve always trusted the power of nettles. Nettle tea helps with UTI’s. It flushes out the bacteria and is also an anti-inflammatory. The latter means it’s also good to use when you’re having joint aches.
Nettles in the kitchen
Last summer I made this delicious courgette & nettle soup, which is full of anti-oxidants, vitamin A, C D and K. Cooking, drying and crushing stinging nettle will get rid of the sting, which makes it safe for consumption. The best time to pick stinging nettle is just before blossoms develop in spring and early summer – once nettle has gone to seed, the leaves will become slightly bitter. They develop gritty particles that may irritate the urinary tract of some people. Always make sure to harvest the brightest nettles – bright green leaves are fresher and will taste better.
Make sure not to pick nettles that grow on the side of the road because of exhaust gases.