It’s springtime and many places in the world springtime means stinging nettle season. Nettles most often referred to as a weed is a common plant in many parts of North America and around the world. Last spring in England it was everywhere which made finding a camping spot at Rat Race Dirty Weekend a little more interesting.
If you have never encountered stinging nettle before your first touch can be painful. Nettle, Urtica Dioica, has been known to be used by people dating back to Ancient Greece. Nettle is a perennial plant that shows up in early spring and then sticks around through early fall. However, did you know stinging nettle is a vitamin-packed food and has been used for ages for its medical properties?
Benefits of Stinging Nettle
Stinging Nettle is known for its nutrition packed in a small bite. It has a relatively higher level of crude protein (33.8%), crude fiber (9.1%), crude fat (3.6%), total ash (16.2%), carbohydrate (37.4%), and relatively lower energy value (307 kcal/100 g) as compared to wheat and barley flours. (source)
Stinging nettle has a long history used in traditional medicine dating to medieval times, there are stories of it used in Buddhism, the Ancient Greeks wrote of it. This one weed has a long history with people.
In modern times Stinging Nettle has been tested and shown to help cardiovascular health (source), prostate health and urinary issues (source, source, source, source), hayfever (source), joint pain and inflammatory conditions (source, source), bleeding (source), and burn wounds (source), possibly even help with type 2 diabetes (source). Additionally, people have antedotally found it to help:
promote hair growth
boosting immune system
supporting adrenal health
supporting thyroid health
preventing and treating diarrhea
decrease menstrual flow
provide asthma relief
treat insect bites
promoting skin and nail health
But as with any herbs you need to see what works for you and this article doesn’t substitute a visit to the doctors. But with all that in mind, it’s worth investigating more.
Stinging Nettle in My Life
When I was a kid in the Adirondacks there were places in the woods I would not venture due to stinging nettle patches. I didn’t know the benefits of the plant and just thought of it as a weed. It was only in the last couple years I learned to embrace this little plant and actually cultivated it from seed in my backyard. I might be one of the only people who purposely grow stinging nettle.
Anyways, I learned a few years ago about the benefits of Stinging Nettle tea and got into the whole idea of foraging your own tea. My aunt gave me the best Ginger Stinging Nettle Arnold Palmer when I was on Bainbridge Island once. Still, remember the ginger nettle flavor.
You can easily pick up stinging nettle tea at the grocery store but there is nothing like fresh leaves and knowing where your food comes from. It’s also available as a tincture, infusion, or capsule. It can be eaten as a vegetable (a quick bit of heat kills off the sting) or some even juice it. Cooked nettle is a great source of vitamins A, C, protein, and iron.
Doniga Markegard who was on the podcast, episode 73, posted on Instagram this spring about making nettle chips. Think kale chips but made with nettles. I was intrigued. So I patiently waited until our stinging nettles got a little bigger and decided to make my own. Someone on the post asked what she did to make the chips and she replied, “some olive oil, vinegars, hippie dust, and salt”.
This morning I headed out with a glove on to not get stung by the nettles and picked a bowl full. I then went into the kitchen and decided to give it a try for myself. Below is my version of the recipe:
Stinging Nettle Chips
A bowl of Harvested Stinging Nettle
Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar
Braggs Liquid Aminos (or Soy Sauce)
Nutritional Yeast aka Hippie Dust
Salt and Pepper
Heat your own to 200F degrees. While the oven is heating lightly coat the nettles with olive oil (about 1-2 tablespoons). Add about a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and about a teaspoon of liquid aminos, when the leaves seem to be mostly coated sprinkle some nutritional yeast (I didn’t measure and added more when I didn’t think I used enough). Then cracked a little bit of salt and pepper on top.
To mix it all I used a spatula, Doniga used a wooden spoon. So use what you have. On a large parchment paper lined pan I gently laid out each leaf. I used a spatula and spoon to get them all flat. Then popped them in the oven for about 45 minutes. At about 15 minutes in I would check every 5 to 10 minutes to make sure they were crisping up.
When they were crisp I pulled them out and my husband and I ate the whole bowl at once. Pretty simple and a new way for me to get the benefits of stinging nettle.