Stinging Nettles

Stinging Nettles, Vancouver Island, BC
Stinging Nettles, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo By Bud Logan

Stinging nettle is the name given to common nettle or garden nettle, and hybrids of these two plants. Originally from the colder regions of Northern Europe and Asia, this herbaceous shrub grows all over the world today. Stinging nettle grows well in nitrogen-rich soil, blooms between June and September, and reaches up to 2 meters high.

Stems are upright and rigid. The leaves are heart-shaped, finely toothed, and tapered at the ends, and flowers are yellow or pink. The entire plant is covered with tiny stiff hairs, mostly on the underside of the leaves and stem, that release stinging chemicals when touched. You only have to brush by it to feel the effects.

When Nettle is cooked it tastes a lot like spinach, so it can be used in any recipe that calls for spinach. It can be steamed or boiled in the same way. If you are harvesting fresh plants use only the young shoots that occur before flowering. Don’t forget your gloves! Dried nettle weed can be used in anything. I’ve used it in soups, stews, chili, and even lasagna! The nettle holds more iron than spinach making it a healthy choice as wild food.

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