The stinging nettle is a cold tolerant herbaceous perennial growing to 1.2m, with coarsely toothed, oval leaves armed with stinging hairs. Tiny green male and female flowers are borne on separate plants, the pendulous branched inflorescences emerging directly from the upper nodes of the square stems. The spreading roots are yellow. The young leaves are rich in minerals, particularly potassium, calcium, silicon and iron, and also contain Vitamin C.

Classified into 5 subspecies, nettle is indigenous to much of the temperate northern hemisphere. As an introduced plant, it is widespread in the temperate southern hemisphere.

Nettle prefers full sun to light shade and thrive in a rich, moist soil that is high in nitrogen. Plant seed in spring or if you are brave, by division of plants in spring.

In addition to spring picking, harvest in midsummer and again in autumn, and always wear gloves to protect your hands. Dig up the roots in autumn and air dry them with the tops out of direct sunlight.

The young leaves were once widely used in the spring diet to revitalize the body after winter. For culinary purposes, use leaf tips from plants less than 10cm high, as these have yet to develop the stinging compounds. Nettle leaves may be cooked as a vegetable, in similar ways to spinach, or added to soups or to vegetable, egg or meat dishes. A tisane can be made from the leaves. Do not eat nettles raw; also note that older leaves are high in calcium oxalate and should not be eaten at all.

information sourced from The Complete Book of Herbs

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23 thoughts on “Nettle

  1. Nettles appear to be used quite a lot in stuffed pasta in Italian cuisine and I see “les orties” appear in French menus. However, there’s something in the nature of stinging nettles that doesn’t make me want to include them in my diet:)

  2. Each year when the nettles are young and tender I keep meaning to make things with them…but never mond, the horses and donkeys round here love them!

  3. I always read in books about cliched people being stung by nettle as the rain fell 😉
    Good to know more about it thank you 🙂

    Choc Chip Uru

  4. What an interesting post! I had a nettle quiche once and it was delicious. I’d love to try nettle tea. It is definitely underrated.

  5. Hmm….nettle tisane. One to try once, I think, just to see! To me nettles are a bit like wasps, I can’t envisage planting them- but now I have read of all the goodies in the leaves, perhaps I should reconsider, Tandy!

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