How to Cook with Nettles

nettles by paul m on unsplashApril is the month to harvest nettle leaves, before they flower.

Nettles are intensely nourishing as a vegetable or as a tea. Cooking dispels the sting, as does drying. Fresh nettles may be simmered in a little water for ten to twelve minutes for a spinach-like vegetable rich in protein. Nettles offer a very high source of iron, calcium, vitamins A, C, and B-complex, potassium, flavonoids, histamine, and serotonin and many essential trace minerals.

It is literally a “super food.” I collected a bag of leaves this morning.

The cooking water may be drunk as a delicious, hearty broth. Tea made from dried nettle leaves provides similar nutrients and may be drunk regularly as a blood builder, iron supplement, kidney tonic and immunity builder.

Replace spinach with nettles in:

  • soups
  • quiche
  • sauteed greens
  • pesto
  • You name it! Use nettles in any recipe that calls for greens. At a Spring potluck I attended, someone made Spanakopita (Greek spinach pie) with nettles.

To cook young nettles:

Wearing heavy gloves, cut only the top 6 leaves of each plant. These should be young and new.  Cut about 24 top leaves (each have about six leaves).

In a sauce pan with a lid, sauté 2-3 Tbsp. of olive oil or butter and 2 cloves of minced garlic. Add the nettles and sauté for 30 seconds, stirring and mixing in the oil and garlic. Sprinkle on 2 Tbsp. water and cover the nettles with the lid. Turn the flame to low and allow to cook for about 7 minutes.

I love this green mixture with a poached egg!

Spring Nettle Soup

  • 1 lb. stinging nettles
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup basmati rice (this is optional if you are on low carb or keto, but it does add a creamy thickness) 
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • salt and pepper to taste

Using gloves, trim off any tough nettle stems.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil with 2 teaspoons of salt. Drop in the nettles, and cook 1 minute until they soften. This will remove the sting. Drain in a colander, and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Chop the cooled nettles coarsely.

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat, and stir in the onion. Cook until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute more. Stir in the rice, chicken broth, and chopped nettles. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a slow simmer, cover, until the rice is tender, about 15 minutes. Puree the soup with an immersion blender or in a blender, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with sour cream or yogurt.

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