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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.
common nettle; grande ortie (French); stor nælde (Danish); stornesle (Norwegian); brännässla (Swedish); nokkonen (Finnish)
Foraged from the wild; Farmer’s Markets
Bright green, small, tender young leaves – and be sure to wear gloves!
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.
Almost always cooked, as raw nettles can deliver a painful sting. Nettles can be used in much the same was as cooked spinach.
Short Term: Refrigerate
Long Term: Freeze whole or dry.
Green, Mildly Sweet – Not unlike spinach, with a mild sweetness and elements of cucumber and pepper.
Spinach is texturally similar, with a fairly close flavour, but lacks the peppery character of nettles (for more options see “Need More Detail?” below).
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.
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.
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.
High in Vitamin A and Calcium.
For a full nutritional profile, click Need More Detail? below
Generally, only the youngest shoots and leaves are eaten. Mature leaves should not be eaten once the plant has begun flowering.
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.