How To Find, Choose, & Use

Stinging Nettle

Urtica dioica

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The Basics

  • What Is It?

    A leafy green member of the nettle family (Urticaceae).  Nettles are found throughout much of the cooler regions of the world. There are several subspecies and varieties, some of which lack the characteristic sting.

  • Seasonality


  • Flavour Profile

    Green/Mildly Sweet

  • Other Names

    common nettle; grande ortie (French); stor nælde (Danish); stornesle (Norwegian); brännässla (Swedish); nokkonen (Finnish)


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  • Find

    Foraged from the wild; Farmer’s Markets

  • Choose

    Bright green, small, tender young leaves – and be sure to wear gloves!

  • Prep

    Difficulty: Moderate – While nettles require no special preparation before cooking, care must be used to avoid getting stung by the tiny hairs. Wear gloves, and wash the greens thoroughly.

  • Use

    Almost always cooked, as raw nettles can deliver a painful sting. Nettles can be used in much the same was as cooked spinach.

  • Store

    Short Term: Refrigerate
    Long Term: Freeze whole or dry.

Culinary Info

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  • Flavour Profile

    Green, Mildly Sweet – Not unlike spinach, with a mild sweetness and elements of cucumber and pepper.

  • Substitutions

    Spinach is texturally similar, with a fairly close flavour, but lacks the peppery character of nettles (for more options see “Need More Detail?” below).

  • Cuisines

    Commonly used in European soups and traditional/rustic dishes. Nettles can be used in virtually any place you’d use cooked spinach or a similar green.

  • Flavour Pairings

    Savory: Other vegetables to round out and balance the flavour (e.g. carrots, potatoes). The distinctive but mild flavour profile works best with lighter proteins like chicken, fish, and beans.

  • Varieties

    As a wild food, nettles aren’t cultivated in different varieties. However, there are varying (but similar) species around the world, including some stingless varieties.

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  • Nutrition

    High in Vitamin A and Calcium.
    For a full nutritional profile, click Need More Detail? below

  • Top-To-Tail

    Generally, only the youngest shoots and leaves are eaten. Mature leaves should not be eaten once the plant has begun flowering.

  • GMO Status


  • Health & Science

    – Capable of inflicting a fairly painful sting
    – The volatile chemical cocktail that causes the sting is entirely inactivated by cooking.

  • Organic vs. Conventional

    Because nettles are generally harvested from the wild, distinctions between conventional and organic growing are not usually applicable. See “Need More Detail?” below for more on this.


Sort By Title
  • Japanese nettle soup - vegan and gluten free, made with miso -
    Japanese Nettle Soup
    Nettles are great in soup - there's no doubt about that. But given their already exotic and unusual status, it's not uncommon for them to be pigeonholed into one...
  • Nettle Cream Soup -
    Nettle Cream Soup
    Stinging nettles might sound unpleasant (and they are if you walk through them by accident), but they're also a wonderfully delicious and amazing in this soup. The wonderful,...

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