Nettles are high in iron, potassium, manganese, calcium, vitamins A, C and protein (a whopping 25% protein). Nutritionally nettles are better than Popeye’s spinach: higher in protein, calcium (4 times), a lot more health benefits… and almost the same taste.
And it’s not that difficult to safely harvest them. Some rubber dishwashing gloves would provide enough protection. You’ll also need a small bucket and pair of kitchen scissors. Snip the stems right below the top four leaves of the nettle plants and let them fall into the pot or bucket. If the nettles are picked early in the season (March-April), the stems can be eaten along with the leaves. Stinging nettles should not be harvested once in bloom.
My grandmother picked them with her bare hands and she said that after picking up 10-15 stinging nettles you won’t feel a thing.
Nettles are used as a medicinal herb and can help in treating arthritis, anemia, hay fever and kidney problems, among other ailments. Dried leaves may be used to make a tea that is useful in alleviating allergy symptoms. (Source)
Nettles are also considered a famine food just like Bark Bread, Sego lily bulbs or orache (Further reading: Ingenious Foods People Made during Famines).
First you have to know that keeping the nettles for a day in your home (room temperature) will eliminate their ability to sting.
So it will be safe to sort the nettles from other weeds or dirt.
Wash the nettles very, very good! (I did it 3 times)
Boil the nettles for 5 minutes (5 min when the water is effectively boiling). When you’ll remove them from the pot, you’ll notice that you are left with only a handful of nettles.
Don’t throw away all the water yet (it should be green by now). Or at least keep one glassful. You’ll need it in a few moments. But you can also keep some because it is very nutritious. My parents were drinking it. (but it’s not tasty at all)
Now it’s time to blend the nettles and add one large tablespoon of flour.
Stir the nettles and add some of the water left from boiling the nettles (at least half a glass). Pour in a pot just a little bit of olive oil and add the nettles.
While cooking the nettles (for at least 20 minutes), peel and cut some garlic (7-10 cloves).
Grate a horseradish just to “sprinkle” over the nettles (like bellow).
Now it’s ready! You may enjoy it just like that, but I prefer it with polenta, some goat cheese and an egg.
To quote a chef:
“It seems like a vegetable cliché, but you can use your cooked nettles anywhere you’d use spinach. Try stinging nettles in pasta, either as a filling, or right in the dough. Use stinging nettles in spanakopita or a soup. Go for asparagus benedict on quinoa nettle cakes or use them to top a pizza like Chad Robertson does in Tartine Bread.” (Source)
Did You Know That Stinging Nettles Are Also Used For:
- making a beer; all you need for the brew is nettles, sugar, water, yeast, an orange and a lemon and cream of tartar.
- making a liquid plant food. Mix nettles with water to make a nitrogen-rich feed plants will love. Cut or crush the nettles into small pieces and stuff them into a large container. Weigh the nettles down with large bricks or rocks. This will stop them floating about when you add water. Add water to the container and leave for four weeks. Dilute the solution to make a liquid plant food suitable for direct application. Use roughly one part of concentrate to 10 parts of water. (Source)
- making nettle tea. As well as being delicious, nettle tea is reputed to help combat several ailments, including eczema, asthma, hay fever and muscle aches. Just steep a few fresh tips in boiling water, removing them when the water goes slightly green, to avoid bitterness.
- to trap aphid. The fresh growth of spring attracts aphids in their thousands – sucking the life from plants, stunting their growth. Luckily, aphids love new nettle shoots, which has several benefits for the garden – it means you can use them as sacrificial plants, saving valuable ornamentals, and it may even stunt the nettle growth. The birds will get their treat, too.
- Nettles are the number one destination for ladybirds with eggs to lay. These eggs turn into ladybird larvae, which predate on garden pests, including aphids, whitefly and red spider mite.