Seasonal harvests:

A Forager’s Guide to Nettles

Table of Contents

SPRING’S GREEN GIFT

Spring’s chirp fills the air, buds pop their heads, and sunlight waltzes into every corner. It’s April, the month where earth’s song reaches a crescendo. But it’s not just traditional flora that quivers with new life; the wild’s bustling, too, with a misunderstood friend peeking from the ground: nettles. This green wonder is Spring’s comeback kid – an underrated superhero hiding a world of benefits beneath its prickly demeanor. Let’s unleash those secrets and nettle foraging recipes to show you why it’s high time this wild plant finds a way into your foraging basket!


NETTLE IDENTIFICATION

Say hello to nettles. But don’t let its stingy reputation dissuade you – that’s like refusing an adventure because you might get a few scrapes! Nettles have brilliantly deep green, serrated leaves that grow opposite each other along the squared stem, dotted with little hairs. These hairs release formic acid, which causes the famous sting. But fear not: once cooked, you can chow down with retaliation-free delight!

NETTLE HARVESTING

Nettles favor out-of-the-way, uncultivated plots that most wouldn’t give a second glance. Generally, countrysides, pastures, or near old barns and buildings are prime hunting grounds for these plants. April showers bring May flowers… and a whole lot of nettles! They love moist, rich soil with partial shade and typically start appearing from late March to June in most regions.

Handling nettles isn’t as daunting as you think. Wear gloves (the kind without holes or you will still feel the sting) or if you’re out without gloves and want to cease the day, just knowing which bits of the plant you can touch will help. The sting is in the stem and the serrated edge of the leaf. The centre of the leave is therefore safe to touch. 

Once you’ve gathered your bunch, blanching nettles in boiling water tames their sting, and you’re left with nutritious leaves that taste a bit like spinach.

NETTLE SYMBOLISM & FOLKLORE

Far from mere nuisance plants, Nettles have a rich history of use in folk medicine across many cultures. They were brewed into tonic teas for their myriad health benefits, spun into fibrous cords, and used in soap-making. Stories abound of helpful nettles, like the tale of the Bride who spun her wedding dress from nettle fibers. The plant was also used to create fabric for uniforms during WW1 and for dying uniforms in WW2. Let’s give nettles their due respect – their history is entwined with ours, after all.

a nettle branch in the sun

WHAT ELSE IS POPPING UP THIS MONTH

April doesn’t play favourites in the wild – it’s a generous host for several edibles. Besides nettles, you’ll find wood sorrel sprouting its heart-shaped, tangy leaves, or wild garlic wafting its enticing aroma from shady woodlands. April’s diversity means there’s plenty for everyone out there foraging.

wood sorrel with fern and sunlight

FORAGING RESPONSIBLY

Remember, foraging isn’t a supermarket spree – no taking everything in sight! Follow the ‘one in five’ rule: for every five plants, pick only from one to ensure nettles can keep adding that springy green to the world. And always pick from areas that are away from pollution and aren’t sprayed with pesticides.

FROM FIELD TO FEAST: TURNING NETTLES INTO NOURISHMENT

Let’s dive into a delightful trio of nettle-inspired recipes, each a perfect tribute to the spirit of Spring foraging.

While these recipes are designed to inspire, feel free to tweak ingredients and measurements according to taste or available resources. Nettle’s adaptable nature makes it a fun and versatile ingredient to experiment with in the kitchen.

Armed with these recipes, it’s time to don those gloves, head out for some nettles, and turn your forage into a feast! Remember, the process is as delightful as the dishes themselves. Happy foraging and even happier cooking!

NETTLE TEA:
THE PERFECT AFTER-DINNER BREW

Nothing says relaxation like a warm cup of freshly brewed nettle tea. Steeped in tradition and flavor, this herbal drink is not only soothing but packed with health benefits, including detoxifying properties and a boost to your immune system. Nettle tea carries a rich, earthy taste, with a hint of sweetness and a silky texture that dances on your palate. You can either make it using fresh leaves, or dry the leaves and store for use whenever you like. 

Fresh nettle tea:

Gather a generous handful of young nettle leaves.

Rinse them thoroughly under cold running water.

Bring approximately 2 cups of water to a boil.

Add the nettles to the boiling water and turn down the heat.

Let it simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on how strong you like your tea.

Strain the leaves out, pouring the tea into your favorite cup.

Optional: Add honey or lemon to taste.

Dried nettle tea:

Follow the first two steps as above, then dry using one of the following methods:

Dehydrator Method: Arrange leaves on dehydrator trays, avoiding overlap. Set to 95°F to 115°F. Dry until leaves are crisp (4-8 hours).
Air-Drying Method: Spread leaves on a paper towel in a dark, dry area. Dry for several days, turning occasionally, until crisp. 

Making the dried Nettle Tea: Steep 1 tablespoon of dried nettle leaves in a cup of boiling water for 5-10 minutes. You can also add honey or lemon to the water. Strain and enjoy.

TO STORE YOUR DRIED NETTLES:

Crumble the dried leaves, discarding stems. 

Store in an airtight container away from sunlight and moisture.

Our glass pantry jars are perfect for this and even come in olive green and forest green glass to match your nettle leaves, or clear glass to see the vibrant tea within.

NETTLE PESTO: A TASTY TWIST ON TRADITION

Swap out basil for nettles in this vibrant, green twist on the classic pesto. Nettle pesto introduces a tangy and slightly herbaceous flavor that pairs beautifully with pasta, as a spread, or even as a dip. It’s a recipe that not only showcases the versatility of nettles but also packs a nutritional punch.

Start with about 2 cups of blanched, cooled, and chopped nettles.

In a food processor, combine the nettles, 3 cloves of garlic, 1/2 cup of pine nuts (or walnuts for a twist), and 3/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese.

Pulse while slowly drizzling in about 1/2 cup of olive oil, until the mixture reaches your desired consistency.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

NETTLE SOUP: COMFORT IN A BOWL

This hearty nettle soup is a bowl of comfort that highlights the lush taste of spring with every spoonful. With its rich, creamy texture and layers of flavor from potatoes, onions, and nettles, it’s a simple yet satisfying dish that warms the soul. This soup not only nourishes but also tells a story of the season’s renewal.

Saute 1 diced onion and 2 minced cloves of garlic in a pot with a little olive oil until translucent.

Add 2 diced potatoes and about 4 cups of vegetable broth; bring to a boil.

Once boiling, add approximately 4 cups of blanched, roughly chopped nettles.

Simmer until the potatoes are tender, around 15 minutes.
Blend the soup with an immersion blender or in batches with a stand blender until smooth.

Finish with a splash of cream for richness, adjusting the salt and pepper to taste.

As you reflect on the day’s adventure, take a moment to appreciate the beautiful harvest in your basket. You’ve turned what many consider an irritating weed into a treasure trove of nutrition and flavor – a true spring success story!

Now it’s your turn to jump into the wild nettle narrative. Share snaps of your nettle-infused recipes (we’d love to see them on instagram tag us @oldgreenstudio) or jot down a line about your day out foraging. Unearth the stories, and share the green joy.

MOVE WITH THE SEASONS

For a simple way to honour the cadence of nature, we have a candle for each of the four seasons, reflecting the natural aromas at each turn of the year. These help us to tune into the changing rhythms of nature and bring the outside in.

SPRING

fresh & citral

notes of bergamot & mint

SUMMER

sweet & exotic

notes of citrus & patchouli

AUTUMN

spicy & herbal

notes of cedarwood & thyme

WINTER

sweet & woody

notes of orange & fir needle

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