A few years ago, a friend of mine shared with me that one of her favorite things about springtime was the nettles. Huh? I thought it sounded kind of silly. I had spent my whole life up to that point avidly trying to avoid their sting on hiking trails. Eating them sounded like a fun adventure at a funky restaurant sometime, but not likely to be my go-to meal option. Or so I thought. After my first attempt at following my friend’s delightfully simple nettle soup recipe, I donned a bunch of nettle-protective gear, went foraging, and was promptly hooked. Their flavor is absolutely. amazing. for. real. I am not exaggerating when I say that their arrival is one of my favorite springtime joys. Once they are submerged in hot water or pulverized in a blender, their sting is gone. And they taste amazing. I promise.
In an attempt to share their delicious flavor with you, I thought I’d take you along with me while I forage in our yard for their beautiful springtime flavor. I also head to a few sacred sites on our island where there are nettle meadows that make my little harvest look like a sad display of nettle-hood.
Please note that while I start the video by pruning much taller, more mature nettles, I finish the video by culling most of my nettles from an area where they are lower to the ground and are more tender. In these areas, I have already cut the nettles and they have regrown; this is a great way to ensure that you’ll extend the new-growth growing season and get the most out of your nettles. It is best to pick these beautiful plants early in the season in order to get the best flavor. It is generally better to pick them before they have matured and flowered, as they become tougher and less tasty; also, there is some debate about whether nettles that have begun to flower can form calcium secretions that irritate the urinary tract. (My belief is that this concern is more an issue for heavy-nettle imbibers, such as daily nettle tea drinkers, but I am not a scientist nor a data analyst and will simply err on the side of caution here and recommend early nettle foraging for all.) I use my best judgment and have the benefit of culling from plants I am familiar with on our property. If you’re new to foraging or just searching for the best flavor, stick with early-Spring renditions that are low to the ground and growing in shady, wet environments as they are less likely to bolt quickly in these areas.
Remember that one of the subset joys of foraging is the unbelievably zen experience of being in the present, feeling your footsteps fall on the earth below you while listening to birdsong, and smelling the earthy bright green of nettles as you borrow a few for your next meal. There is nothing like it.
In an attempt to keep my posts organized, I’ll dedicate another post to my favorite nettle soup recipe, based largely on my friend’s original description years ago of how to make nettle soup. It is so easy and so delicious you’ll wonder how you lived life before you discovered it.
In the meantime, give this a look-see (full-screen works best) and please share your tips and tricks–or trials and tribulations–for working with nettles!
For a fun view into the medicinal world of this tasty weed and all the ways that preparing this as a meal might also support a healthy immune system, check out this post by Hood To Coast Healthcare: Nettles: The plant that bites back.