Yep the stinging ones! so wear gloves when picking them and Spring is the perfect time to enjoy this delicious and very nutritious (packed with iron) green super-food in soup, smoothies, omelette or tea. Nettles are credited with all sorts of blood purification, healing and medicinal properties so I had to try them. The young fresh leaves are much more tender than later in the year. Pick them away from busy roads as you might get run over! No to avoid the toxic fumes. I have cooked with them lots of times and once they are cooked they loose their sting but I had never tried them uncooked. The plan was to pick them, wash them add them to a smoothie and get some one else to try it first! I Remember learning about the Aboriginal people in Australia and how they tested new foods. I assumed that they would get the most annoying member of their group and say ‘Hey Johnny try this!!!’ but it was far more scientific. They took a small piece and rubbed it on the inside of their upper arm to see if their was a reaction. After a while if there was no reaction they would put a small piece on the inside of their lips and eventually on their tongues. If all the tests were passed it was most likely safe to eat. As there was no ‘Johnny’ to try the first batch I stepped up to the plate. Surprisingly enough after the raw nettles were whizzed up I very tentatively testing a small amount and discovered that there was no sting! So they went into a smoothie of banana,milk, orange juice and honey aka the ‘Green Stinger’ (thanks @BolandCatherine for the name) It tasted okay if a bit earthy but I could feel the goodness going in. Anybody interested in wild food should try them. But if they are not your cup of ‘nettle’ tea then at least make food for your veg especially tomatoes. It is like Viagra for them! Get a big barrel and but as many nettles as you can squash in, add water and leave to rot for a few weeks. It WILL stink! Strain it, dilute it and stand back as your tomatoes thrive.
Here is a simple Nettle Soup recipe, as with all recipes they are only a guideline and should be adjusted to suit your own taste.
A couple of big onions chopped
5/6 cloves garlic chopped
5/6 potatoes diced
1 shopping bag (plastic or bag for life) full of fresh nettle tops
remove as much of the stalks as possible
Salt and pepper
Pinch of sugar
Olive oil and a knob of butter
Half a pint of milk
Soften the onions, garlic and potatoes in the oil and butter in a large pot.
Once softened but not coloured add a couple of litres of boiling water cook for 15/20 minutes then add the nettles (with gloves!) and cook until soft- do not over cook the nettles. Season to taste and blitz. Serve with crumbled goats and warm crusty bread.