How To Cook Stinging Nettles

How To Cook Stinging Nettles

Lots of new greens pop-up in spring, rich in nutrients and flavors. One of my favorites is stinging nettles. I introduced this plant into my garden about 15 years ago. Every spring I look forward to harvesting these stinging greens to make something yummy in the kitchen. This is how I harvest, handle, cook, and enjoy nettles without getting stung. 

Nettles growing 

First thing I do is put on a pair of gloves and a long sleeved shirt. With my "armor" on I head over to my little plot of nettles, and cut about 10-20 stalks at the bottom, very carefully. Leave some for next harvest, don't cut everything. 

Harvested Nettle leaves

With my "armor" still on, I carefully wash the harvest very well, and cut the leaves from the stalks. 

Compost stems and brown leaves

Then I head over to a tree or bush in my garden and compost the stalks and brown leaves, right into the ground, and cover with dirt. Here you see my little peach tree getting fed.

Saute onion and garlic

Saute some onions and garlic in a little olive oil until they begin to sweat.

Nettles added to onion and garlic

Add the nettles to the garlic and onion and continue to cook for about 5 minutes. You may have to add a little water if it gets too dry.

Lemon verbena

At this point, you can add any spice or herb of choice, for example, I used dried lemon verbena from my garden. Since the nettles taste a little more earthy than spinach, any fruity or citrus flavors gives it a lighter taste. Alternatively, you could use lemon balm. I also added a little Himalayan salt

Nettles, onion, garlic, and herbs

Continue to simmer until the whole thing is cooked, but not overcooked, maybe 5 minutes. You can now serve and eat it as is. Although this time....

Pureed nettles

I decided to blend the whole thing in my Magic Bullet until smooth, or you can use a blender (you may have to add a little water if it is too dry). Add a slice of lemon to decorate and for flavor. This makes a great dip, or filling for spanakopita, lasagna, rice dish, etc.

P.S. If the nettles sting you, don't worry, the sting disappears quickly. The stinging comes from tiny sacs of formic acid at the tip of the little hairs, which break open when you touch the leaves and stems. Formic acid is the same chemical released by ants when they bite you.

There is a lot of folklore around stinging nettles. My grand-mother once told me in the olden days people who had arthritis or rheumatism would lay in a bed of nettles. (Ouch, don't do that!)

Herbalists say, when nettles don't sting you, they like you! 

Written by Leilah



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