Foraging Stinging Nettles

Photo by Gayla Trail

I went out foraging stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) last weekend. I harvested young leaves for eating and have set aside most to be made into a liquid fertilizer for my plants. Stinging nettle is very high in magnesium and iron making it good for both your bod and your plants’ too.

Stinging Nettle Tea

I went out partially prepared with snips and a collecting bag but forgot my gloves and was stuck slowly and delicately lifting each snipped piece into the bag wielding the sharp clippers like tongs. I suffered a few small “bites” to my hand after growing impatient with the delicate procedure but the early season foliage doesn’t seem to be as nasty as late-season plants because I didn’t need to seek out foliar antidotes (Rubbing the leaves of dock, mullein, jewelweed, or plantain on your skin will neutralize the sting. It is said that the cure is always growing within eyesight and in my experience that has proven to be the case everytime.)

Stinging Nettle Tea

I’m thinking of going out again before the plants mature. I’ve become intrigued by the idea of making up a batch of nettle soup after seeing it done by school kids reliving WW2 times on the BBC show Evacuation. Why yes, I do know that I’m a geek.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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12 thoughts on “Foraging Stinging Nettles

  1. I wish I knew what nettles looked like. I wonder if they grow in the flatlands where I live or whether I’d have to go up in the hills. In any case, I saw a recipe for Nettle Soup in an Irish cookbook and have been wanting to try it.

  2. Nettles generally grow in areas with consistently moist soil. The leaves look sort-of like catnip but whereas catnip is fuzzy, nettles have a rough texture. Of course the difference is very clearly demonstrated when you touch it!

  3. I have a spot set aside on the woods edge to plant nettles and motherwort, and can’t wait to get the seeds dispersed. They’re both such wonderful plants to have around. I love nettles in miso broth, scrumptious. It also makes a terrific spring tonic, mixed with dandelion leaves steeped in hot water.

  4. Thanks so much for putting up a pic. I always wondered what stinging nettle looked like. I was also wondering, can’t a tea be made from this for hair?

  5. You can use the tea for your hair IF your hair colour isn’t too light. My grandma turned her grey hair green once that way :) But it’s great for your scalp.
    I love to mix it with peppermint and rosemary for a morning tea. And put it in soup, yum….

  6. can you share the recipe for the stinging nettles fertilizer? i also heared its good against pests.


  7. Recipe.

    On the hair tip… it’s supposed to be good for dandruff. Stinging nettle is one of those awesome herbs that’s good for a million and one things if you can just get over the sting. And of course many people welcome the sting to help with rheumatism. The Latin name actually stems from an old use by priests… urtification.

  8. OH Nettles. They are amazing. Just to let you all know, you can also steam clean Nettles for just a few minutes. When they turn bright green and go a bit tender they are ready to eat (sting free) like spinach. I eat them all the time with just a bit of butter and some lemon. They are an amazing source of power – they make me feel like Popeye.

  9. I wonder how many different kinds there are. It started growing wild in my back yard this year, and other places in town, I’ve noticed. I never saw it around here before, though, and they don’t sting as bad as other varieties you find in the woods, but it’s definitely stinging nettle……..

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