Stinging nettles are an easy to recognize plant. If you feel a little unsure if it may or may not be stinging nettle, here is a simple solution. Reach out your hand, grasp the plant in question, and see how fast you let it go!
Other identifying features are the serrated heart-shaped leaves and the small greenish flowers that grow in clusters and hang below the leaves. Nettles can grow to be 7 feet tall. They have tiny spines that contain formic acid and histamine compounds, which will sting upon contact with your skin. These spines are primarily located along the stem and under the leaves. One of the best ways to harvest them is by using a scissors and a pair of kitchen gloves.
The whole plant is edible, but it is best to use before it reaches 2 feet in height. Traditionally the leaves have been cooked to break down the spines but blending them also does the same thing and enables them to be eaten raw.
Nettles have been used for hundreds of years to treat arthritis and other joint problems. They have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, to lower blood sugar, to calm allergies and to relax sore muscles. They are also very high in iron.
Juice of 1 lemon or lime (be careful not to let the pips/seeds into the jug, they taste very bitter)
A few spoons of your sweetener of choice
A small pinch of salt if you like.
Take your blender jug for a walk, and using a scissors snip the tops of nettle plants into the jug. Add all the other ingredients to the blender. Adding a chunk of cucumber and ginger makes tasty additions. Fill the jug up (about ½-3/4 full;) with fresh spring water. Most important part – make sure to put the lid on! Blend until completely broken down and strain through a nut milk bag, you can serve as is, or chilled with some ice, a straw and a cocktail umbrella!
There is a lot more information about nourishing nettles with tasty recipes to try, over on the blog written by Heather and from Sergei on his website. Check them out here:
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Heather Gardner is the program director for the Body Enlightenment Wild Edibles program. Much of the information in this article was compiled by Sergei Boutenko’s Wild Edibles book. Sergei Boutenko is the co-creator and tutor for the Wild Edibles program.