Stinging nettle it’s the queen of all the wild edibles: easy to find in great quantites, easy to pick, impossible to be mistaken with poisonous species and very easy to preserve in winter. The plant has a long history of use as a source for traditional medicine, food, tea, and textile raw material in ancient societies.
Where can you find it?
Distribution: originally native to Europe, much of temperate Asia and western North Africa, it is now found worldwide, including New Zealand and North America.
Habitat: uncultivated fields, riparian woods, forest clearings and ruined houses. Stinging nettle generally grows on deep, nutrient-rich soils. Grows from sea level to subalpine elevations.
When to harvest?
Shoots and youg leaves are picked in spring, before flowering. You better wear dishwashing gloves.
In summer you can pick older leaves in order to dry them and reduce them in powder. You will get a valuable flour to use in dough and breading.
How do I use it?
Washing it with warm water reduces the stinging power, making it easier to clean it. Cooking destroys the stinging hair. Urtica dioica has a flavour similar to spinach mixed with cucumber when cooked, and is rich in minerals.
Shoots and young laves can be used in sauces, pesto, risotto, tortelli, green tagliatelle, vegetable soups, omelettes, quice and savory tarts. They are also used to flavour wines, cordials, beer and vinegars.
Flowers can be deep-fried. They will be a delicious snack or a special decoration for plating.
It can be frozen after simmering. Dried leaves can be used for herbal tea. I make a flour (dried leaves in the food processor) and I use it for making dough and breading.
A very easily grown plant, succeeding better in nitrogen-rich soils. Stinging nettle produces abundant seed and spreads and reproduces vegetatively by rhizomes. Seeds can be found in shops as well.
Check my nettle recipes