Eating wild never tasted so good! If you love spinach, you will love stinging nettles. Even if you hate spinach, like I do, you’ll probably still really enjoy cooking and baking with the foraged medicinal weed!
Stinging nettles boast a decidedly nut and spinach taste, but not to an overwhelming degree. They are poisonous to eat raw, but once the nettles are boiled, they are safe to consume. Boiling nettles also causes them to lose their sting. They make yummy ingredients in paste dishes, casseroles, soups, omelets, and salads.
Picking the nettles requires wearing work gloves, they do sting – and I mean a lot! The tiny little hairs present on the “stingers” on the leaves of the nettles make touching them something you never want to do twice. Stinging nettles grow throughout the vast majority of the United States, and tend to favor ravines and creek beds.
The prime harvesting season of nettles is very short. They taste best when picked first thing in the spring through the early weeks of summer when the plants are 4 – 8 in ( 10 – 20 cm) tall. As the stinging nettles grow older, their fibers become extremely tough and have the consistency of dental floss – making them rather unpleasant to chew.
Do not harvest stinging nettles to cook or bake with after they have flowered. At this point during the growing season, the aging leaves possess cystoliths that often cause an irritation of the kidneys. It is deemed acceptable to use flowered stinging nettles for us in making herbal powders and teas because the cystoliths compounds are eliminated during the drying process required to make the above noted items.
Stinging nettles have long been used by herbalists as a diuretic, and to help restore good gut bacteria to the body and to stem blood loss from woods or after giving birth. Folks suffering from gout, common skin rashes, arthritis, an eczema have found some relief from their conditions by eating stinging nettles or using home remedies made from the foraged weeds.
To help or prevent hay fever and similar allergies, drinking 2 cups of a tea made from stinging nettles on a daily basis has proven useful for some sufferers. Drinking the tea prior to the arrival of the allergy season is often recommended by herbalists.
Want to have beautiful, glossy, and quick-growing hair? Stinging nettles may be able to help with that too. Rinsing your hair in a nettles tea, especially one that also includes rosemary, may stimulate the growth of hair follicles, deter split ends, and produce a luxurious sheen to your locks.
Preparing and Preserving Stinging Nettles
You can freeze, dehydrate, and water bath can stinging nettles so you can enjoy the fresh taste of spring all year long.
• Freezing – Boil or team the stinging nettles to cook them slightly. Then rinse the nettles in cold water and place them in a strainer until they are completely dry. Store them in a freezer bag until ready to use.
• Water Bath Canning – Can stinging nettles as you would spinach.
• Boiling – Put the stinging nettles in a pot and boil for at least five but not more than 15 minutes. Strain the nettles. Now that the stingers have been removed, they can safely be used in your favorite recipes. Some folks use the water strained away from the nettles as a herbal tea. It can taste a little bit bitter, adding honey may make the herbal tea much more tasty.
• Steaming – Put the stinging nettles in a steaming basket or colander and steam for at least five but no more than 10 minutes.
• Sauteing – The stinging nettles must be sautee until they are fully cooked. This take about five to eight minutes for a bout two quarts of the foraged edibles.
#1. Stinging Nettles Dip
• 1 cup of stinging nettles – blanched
• ¾ of a cup of yogurt – Greek yogurt highly recommended
• A pinch of cayenne pepper
• 2 tablespoons of olive oil
• 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
• 1.4 cup of mint leaves
• 5 cloves of roasted garlic or 1 clove of fresh garlic
1. Chop the stinging nettles into roughly shape cubes by hand or in a food processor.
2. Pour all of the ingredients into a blender or food processor and pulsate for about 45 seconds or until smooth.
3. Serve on crackers, toast, or chips. If stored in an airtight container the stinging nettles dip should keep for about one week.
#2. Stinging Nettles Beer
It takes approximately 2 pounds of stinging nettles leaves to make a full batch of beer. The top leaves of the weed are the most fresh and are the best ones to pick when making “weed booze.”
To make a non-alcohol tea instead, simply allow the water remaining in the mix pot after blanching the nettles leave to make the beer, to cool and pour it over ice. Stinging nettles tea has long been believed to improve the milk production of a nursing mother and to heal both mouth sores and scratchy throats due to the common cold and flu. The tea can also be poured into bath water to ease the inflammation and stiffness of sore joints, muscles, and bones.
• 1 large to extra large dandelion root.
• 1 sachet of wine yeast
• 1 tablespoon of ginger – dried is best but powdered will also work.
• ½ teaspoon of squeezing from a fresh lemon, lemon juice, or citric acid
• 3 cup or so, of sugar- white cane sugar works the best.
1.In a large pot filled about half way up with water, boil the stinging nettles leaves and the dandelion root.
2. Strain the mixture into a fermenting cask or container.
3. Pour in the lemon squeezings, juice, or citric acid and the ginger.
4. Once the stinging nettles mixture has cooled down to at least 90 degrees, sprinkle in the wine years compound. Once it yeast begins to “grow” it will convert the sugar already present in the ethanol, into alcohol. A brown foam should materialize on the surface.
5. After the brown foam sinks down into the mixture, the fermentation process has finished and it is time to pour the stinging nettles beer into bottles.
6. Add about ½ a teaspoon of sugar to each pint bottle of beer. The beer is not ready to drink until the mixture has fully settled and the inside of the bottles appears almost entirely clear.
#3. Stinging Nettles Lasagna
• 3 tablespoons of olive oil
• 2 pinches of oregano
• 1 onion – diced
• 6 cups of stinging nettles
• 2 pinches of oregano
• 6 tablespoons of butter
• 2 pounds of asparagus
• 1 pound of hamburger or sausage
• 4 ounces of your favorite cheese
• 2 cups of peas – optional
• 2 thinly sliced lemons
• ½ cup of flour – all-purpose recommended
• ½ up of Parmesan cheese
• 4 ½ cups of milk
• 12 lasagna noodles – the no boil version makes the prep time easier
• salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 350F (176 C).
2. Boil the stinging nettles.
3. Clean and cut the tips off of the asparagus – then cut them into spears about ½ long.
4. Brown the hamburger or sausage then strain the grease.
5. Put the olive oil in a pot and sautee the onion and asparagus until they are crisp yet still tender – about four minutes over medium to medium-high heat.
6. Pour in the stinging nettles and peas and sautee until they are fully cooked, about three minutes.
7. Place the lemon slices in a pot and cover them with water. Bring the mixture to a boil and then turn down the heat and allow the pot to simmer for six to eight minutes. Then remove the lemon slices and allow them to dry on a paper towel.
8. Melt the butter in a pot and pour in the flour. Allow the mixture to cook for two to three minutes.
9. Whisk in the milk and bring the sauce to a boil. Turn down the heat and allow the mixture to simmer for about one minute.
10. Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the salt, pepper, and cheeses.
11. Layer a 9 X 13 baking dish with the lasagna noodles and cover with the sauce.
12. Add a layer of sauce, half of the meat, another layer of noodles, followed by the rest of the meat, and a final layer of the sauteed nettles sauce.
13. Arrange the lemons on top of the stinging nettles lasagna an then bake the dish for 28 minutes. Allow the lasagna to settle and cool for 10 minutes before eating. Serves about eight people.
#4. Stinging Nettles Pie
Ingredients and Directions
• Your favorite pie dough crust – using a package pasty dough works well also, if you are pressed for time.
• 1 pound of stinging nettles. Rinse them in cold water, blanch, and drain.
• Squeeze out any excess water with your hands and toss like you would salad.
• Chop up the nettles finely by hand or in a food processor.
• Mix the nettles with 1 pound of cottage cheese.
• Mix in 1 teaspoon of lemon zest.
• Add in about 2 teaspoons of nutmeg – or to taste.
• Mix in ¾ of a cup of Parmesan cheese.
• Add a pinch each of salt and pepper
• Add 1 egg and stir.
• Crumble 3 tablespoons of Feta cheese – or to taste.
• Stir or blend until the mixture is smooth.
• Place some olive oil, coconut oil, or butter – bacon fat works great too, into a pot and sautee 1 cup of onion.
• Add a pinch of whole cloves into the pot.
• Add ½ cup of slice mushrooms to the sautee pot – or to taste.
• Optional – add a pinch each of thyme and dill.
• Remove the pot from the heat and add the nettles and cottage cheese.
• Stir and thoroughly warm through the mix.
• Pour into the pie crust and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese – nuts make a great topper as well!
• Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Allow the stinging nettles pie to cool and settle for 10 minutes before serving.
#5. Stinging Nettles Ravioli
Ingredients and Directions
• Boil, rinse in cold water, and strain 1 cup of nettles.
• Put a second pot of water on to boil – add a pinch of salt to the water.
• Squeeze the nettles and toss.
• In a bowl, combine the nettles with ½ cup of ricotta cheese – or your favorite cheese.
• Add ¼ cup of Parmesan cheese to the pot.
• Squeeze in the juice from one lemon or about 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.
• Add a pinch of two of salt and pepper.
• Use your favorite paste recipe, or store bought ravioli shells or pastry dough to make a housing for the stinging nettles mixture.
• Fill the pasta with the mixture and pinch all sides close thoroughly.
• Drop the stinging nettles raviolis into the pot of boiling water.
• Remove each ravioli when it floats to the top of the pot. Use a slotted spoon and allow the ravioli pockets to dry before placing in a casserole dish.
• Warm a little bit of butter in a small bowl, toss in a pinch of oregano, sage, basil, or your favorite spices, and baste the ravioli – optional. You can also cover with your favorite pasta sauce before serving.
#6. Stinging Nettles Smoothie
• 1 cup of boiled, rinsed, and cooled stinging nettles
• ½ cup of strawberries
• 3 tablespoon of honey
• 1 stick of rhubarb – optional
• 1 teaspoon of cinnamon – optional
• ½ cup or orange or pineapple juice
• 3 cups of ice – more if you would like a thicker smoothie
Pour all of the ingredients into a blender, add more ice if needed, pour into a cup and enjoy!
Sauteed Stinging Nettles
• 3 cups of boiled, rinsed, and strained stinging nettles
• 1 tablespoon of garlic
• 2 tablespoons of olive oil – more if necessary
• A pinch each of salt, pepper, onion powder, bacon bits, and turmeric
1. Pour the olive oil into a skillet on medium-high heat.
2. Pour in all of the other ingredients and sautee for about five minutes.
3. You can eat the dish alone after it has cooled enough to taste, or pour over pasta.
#6. Stinging Nettles Cake and Blackberry Cake
• 2 cups of stinging nettles
• ¾ cup of sugar
• ¾ cup of softened butter
• 2 teaspoons of baking powder
• 3 eggs
• 2 cups of all-purpose flour
• 1 to 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
• ½ teaspoon of salt
• ½ teaspoon of lemon zest or lemon juice
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees
2. Grease two 7-inch baking pans
3. Boil, rinse, and strain the stinging nettles
4. Cream together the sugar and butter in a large bowl
5. Add in the eggs then beat thoroughly
6. Mix in the lemon zest or lemon juice and vanilla extract
7. Sift in the baking powder and the flour and beat again
8. Add in the sat and mix thoroughly
9. Pour the mixture into the baking pans
10. Bake for 24 minutes and then allow to cool on baking racks for 10 minutes
11. Ice the cake with your favorite icing – buttercream or lemon buttercream is highly recommended
12. Top with 1 cup (or so) of blackberries and a sprinkling of lemon zest – optional
#7. Stinging Nettle Soup
• 1 pound of boiled, rinsed, and strained stinging nettles
• 2 chopped carrots
• 1 large cauliflower – chopped finely
• ½ cup of mint leaves – optional, basil leaves work well also
• 2 to 3 finely chopped leaks – optional but recommended
• 4 finely chopped whole cloves
• 4 cups of liquid vegetables stock
• Salt and pepper to taste – 2 pinches recommended
• 2 to 3 tablespoons of either coconut oil or olive oil
1. When boiling the stinging nettles, the mint or basil leaves can be added to the same pot for boiling, as well.
2. Blend the mixture after blanching but putting it into a food processor or blender with ¼ cup of cold water. It should have a smoothie type consistency when finished.
3. Heat the olive oil in a cook pot and then add in the carrots and garlic and leeks. Steam or “sweat” the mixture for approximately 15 minutes on low heat.
4. Ad in the cauliflower and vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Simmer the mixture for 15 to 20 minutes.
5. Once the mixture has cooled to about room temperature, puree or pulse it in a blender or food processor. Then mix together with the stinging nettles smoothie mixture.
6. Add in the salt and pepper.
7. Warm the combined mixture through on low to low-medium heat and serve.
#8. Stinging Nettles Tea
• 2 cups of boiled, rinsed, and drained stinging nettles
• 2 tablespoon of peppermint leaves or oil
• 2 teaspoons of honey
• 2 tablespoons of chamomile
• 1 teaspoon of thyme
• 1 teaspoon of sage
• ½ teaspoon of basil
• 1 teaspoon of lemon – zest, powder, or balm
• Pinch of coconut oil – optional
1. Pulse all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender
2. Brew the stinging nettles tea by combining about 3 teaspoons of dried ingredients per pot of water. If making just a single cup of the tea at a time, use teaspoon of dried ingredients per cup of water.
#9. Stinging Nettles Omelet
• 1 ½ cups of boiled, rinsed, and strained stinging nettles
• 7 ounces of your favorite cheese
• 5 eggs
• 2 teaspoon of baking powder
• ¾ cup of flour
• 7 ounces of your favorite yogurt
• Salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat over to 350 degrees.
2. Grease or line small to medium sized baking dish.
3. Crack the eggs into a bowl and mix thoroughly.
4. Mix in the cheese and yogurt.
5. Add in the stinging nettles followed by the baking powder and mix thoroughly again.
6. Mix in the salt and pepper and optional seasonings like bacon bits, green onions, and salsa.
7. Pour into dish and bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Allow to cool and settle for about five minutes before serving.
#10. Stinging Nettles Wraps
- 3 cups of boiled, rinsed, and strained stinging nettles – allow the nettles to wilt for several minutes in the rinse water before straining
- 4 cups of flour – and more if needed
- 2 eggs
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon of salt
1. Put the wilted stinging nettles into a blender and pulsate until smooth.
2. Put the nettles in a bowl and whisk in the salt and flout.
3. Mix in the eggs – you can add a spoonful of water if the mixture is to dry to stir thoroughly.
4. Divide the dough in half and knead completely.
5. Roll each half of the dough into a ball and chill for about 15 minutes in the refrigerator.
6. Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and divide each ball into about 5 smaller balls.
7. Roll each ball out so that is resembles a wrap, burrito, or tortilla shape and thickness.
8. Place each wrap into a skilled and brown over medium-high heat for about two minutes per size – or until brown spots appear.
9. Fill with your favorite taco mix or sandwich spread, and enjoy!
These are just a few of the tasty recipes you can make with foraged stinging nettles. They can be substituted for spinach, kale, and lettuce – or in addition to, in about any dish you routinely make around the homestead.
Have a stinging nettles recipe or experience of your own? Please share it with our homesteading community in the comments section.