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In my other question Can you eat dock leaves? How can they be prepared?

@ThatIdiot says:

... the stinging nettles are one of the best forage foods out there.

So how do you prepare these? What do they taste of? Any recipes or prefared ways of eating nettles?

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    Do note that stinging nettles differ strongly from country to country. In central europe I could pick them by hand, in western europe I wouldn't even consider it. I am not sure whether it's just a difference in the genes common from country to country or whether it's actually a different subspecies, but either way: It's something to be aware of, especially as I know some people who eat them raw (only in central europe). – David Mulder Aug 17 '15 at 23:07
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    The overriding question is: do you have to protect your nettles from a bear? – ab2 Aug 17 '15 at 23:16
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    @DavidMulder Having encountered nettles in Tibet (one of the most painful things I've ever touched) and Australia (finger tingling the next morning) I consider the nettles I encountered in the UK to be incredibly mild. – Joel Aug 18 '15 at 13:20
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    For what it's worth, nettles had a lot of uses for the Haida people (off the West coast of Canada): lfs-indigenous.sites.olt.ubc.ca/plants/urtica-dioica-l – Joel Aug 18 '15 at 13:23
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    @Luaan Ah, I looked it up later, you indeed have 6 subspecies of which 2 exist in europe and one of those is stingless. The interesting thing is that the stingless subspecies can interbreed with the 'normal' one giving stinging nettles that can be any degree of 'stingy'. – David Mulder Aug 19 '15 at 8:18
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I have only had them as a tea with raspberry leaves. Refreshing enough, but nothing I'd actively forage to accomplish.

However since the USDA report (direct PDF download) says that stinging nettles are 2.7% protein, and high in a number of vitamins and minerals, I think I'll try using them in a few dishes.

Initial collection and preparation for cooking should be done with rubber gloves since, as their name suggests, they do sting. However cooking deactivates the sting and renders them safe for consumption.

Most people I speak with say that they boil them and/or use them in soup. Wild Man Steve Brill also likes them in soups, but he said the best way to cook them is to steam them, and he uses them as a vegetable side dish with rice. Regarding the flavor he says,

Because nettles have the richest, hardiest taste of any green, I often combine them with lighter ingredients, such as celery, zucchini, lemon juice, or tomato sauce.

There is a wealth of information "out there" about using stinging nettles, but here's one link I found that covers both good links and recipes.

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    Your USDA link seems to be pointing at your download directory - please change it to the location you downloaded the file from. – Random832 Aug 18 '15 at 6:18
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    I've made nettle soup a couple of times. To my mind it's similar in taste to watercress or radish greens (when cooked). – aucuparia Aug 18 '15 at 8:39
  • @Random832 - I believe I have the link situation sorted out now. Please let me know if you have trouble downloading the PDF. – That Idiot Aug 18 '15 at 12:16
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Nettles should be blanched to destroy the formic acid before eating (Handle with gloves of course).

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil & prepare a bowl of ice water on the side. Once the water is boiling, plunge the nettles in the water for no more than a minute or so (the nettles should be bright green & not over cooked). Quickly drain the nettles & then plunge into the ice water. From here use them as you would any other cooked greens like spinach.

You could use nettles in place of spinach in a spinach artichoke dip, as a pesto, as pizza topping, or marinated with garlic & olive oil and served over a steak or chicken breast. I also like them mixed in with pasta dishes.

  • I must say too, that "That Idiot"'s last link has some excellent links to recipes / other suggestions like spatzel & risotto which sound particularly appealing to me... – renesis Aug 18 '15 at 5:44
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This is a good place to start: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's nettle recipes.

Nettle Soup Adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

  • Around 150g nettle tops
  • 30-35g knob of butter
  • 1 onion, peeled chopped
  • 1 large or 2 smallish leeks, trimmed, washed and finely sliced
  • 2 celery sticks, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tbsp white rice, such as basmati
  • 1 litre vegetable (or chicken) stock
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 6 heaped tbsp sour cream, to finish
  • 1 small bunch chives, to finish

Pick over the nettles, wash them thoroughly and discard the tougher stalks. Melt the butter in a large pan over medium-low heat, add the onion, leek, celery and garlic, cover and sweat gently for 10 minutes, stirring a few times, until soft but not brown. Add the rice and stock, bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Add the nettles, stirring them into the stock as they wilt, and simmer for five minutes or so, until the rice and the nettles are tender (very young nettle tops will need only two to three minutes). Season with plenty of salt and pepper.

Purée the soup in two batches, reheat if necessary and check the seasoning. Serve in warmed bowls, topping each portion with a large dollop of sour cream and a generous sprinkling of snipped chives.

Another one: Nettle soup (River Cottage).

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Very carefully!!

Seriously need to be blanched/boiled to render the Formic acid inert. Formic has a much higher effect on organics than its relative acidity would suggest.

From here use like cabbage or such.

5

In Russia we make a soup with nettles. It's very very tasty! I have no receipts from myself, but I have some links on Russian receipt forum, maybe it will be useful.

3

My mother makes gnocchi with nettles. You can make them both with or without potatoes.

Another nice recipe is meat/pork joint wrapped in nettle and bread. This one may be quite unpractical to prepare outdoor though as you need to bake it.

3

We've made Indian-style saag paneer with nettle and it was great! Just substituted the spinach/mustard-greens with the nettle.

  • Oh, this sounds good – user2766 Aug 19 '15 at 8:25
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Like a lot of other people have said, cooking neutralises the sting, but blending them to a paste, in an oil or a pesto works too.

The reason for this is that the sting is not just the acid component, but the delivery mechanism: the little hairs on the leaves are hollow, and act as little hypodermic needles. If you blend the leaves, you destroy the little sharp hairs, and they can't sting you.

Nettle pesto is called "Pesto di Ortiche" in Italian, and it's delicious and well worth making.

3

If you're feeling extra adventurous, you can eat it raw! If you fold up the nettle leaf, such that it "breaks" the little pricklers (they're like little needles) on leaf, you should be able to eat it without issue.

The trick is to fold/roll the leaf up all over and tightly, so it forms a small compact ball. Your stomach acid is much stronger than the formic acid found in the leaf, so the acid is a non-issue. It also seems to help if you have a lot of saliva in your mouth, if you do choose to eat it raw.

I was in an outdoors camp in elementary school and we actually ate several of these leafs with this method. I don't recall anybody getting stinged, but I know it is a possibility.

I've found a few comments about it here:

The brave can even eat raw nettles! The trick is to carefully fold them so the spines are within, gather up a bunch of saliva in your mouth, then immerse them and chew them up -- delicious!

I’ve only been stung a couple times out of hundreds of episodes of raw nettle eating.

I don’t know why saliva neutralizes the sting, perhaps saliva’s alkalinity neutralizes the formic acid.

The seeds are also delicious, and don’t seem to sting. They have a mucilaginous quality, and are said to be an adrenal tonic.

Finally, nettles also have strong, durable fibres. You can use the stems much as you would flax. You have to rinse away the non-cellulitic material, easily done by putting bundles of the stems in a stream, weighted down with a rock.

And here...

You can eat raw stinging nettle if you fold the leaves UP over the stems and hairs, the trick is to never rub the hairs against the direction they go. OR, you can simply soak the nettles in cold water, or blanch them, and chop them all up in the food processor. All of these methods deactivate the sting, and then you can use them in delicious recipes.

Here's another experience with folding the leaves:

Nettles can be eaten raw by folding the the leaf over to hide the stinging underside as described. Some people, a small minority, are resistant to nettles inside their mouths and don’t need to fold the leaves, but nettle stings inside the mouth are very painful–use discretion.

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