Nettle is a great wild plant to start you off on your adventures into foraging. It is easily identifiable by most people, as most of us remember those nettle stings and it can be found everywhere. The leaves are toothed and heart shaped with fine stinging hairs. You can find them in gardens, wastelands, wet woodlands, along hedgerows and along river banks. Nettles pack a powerful punch nutritionally speaking, with high levels of iron, minerals (especially bone-building minerals: calcium, magnesium and phosphorus), protein and vitamins A and C in particular. They are also thought to detox the body. They are often thought of as nature’s multivitamin. Pick them before they flower, by cutting the top 4/5 leaves, creating a cut-and come-again patch for yourself. Heat deactivates the sting, so you can rinse them in boiling water before using.
1. Nettle vinegar
Nettle vinegar is a particularly effective method of extracting the minerals. Easy to make and can be used on everything, enabling you to get nettles’ minerals and vitamins into your diet easily. After rinsing with boiling water, cut the nettles into small pieces, fill a jar with them and cover with raw apple cider vinegar. Let this steep for 2-4 weeks shaking daily, strain out the nettles and put them in your compost bin; you can use the vinegar liberally.
2. Nettle Tea
Place your nettle tops (4/5 leaves) in boiling water for 15 minutes, then drink. You can also use this infusion as as a nourishing hair and scalp rinse.
3. Nettles as a spring greens
The easiest way to use nettles is by simply adding them into whatever food you are making: curry, soup, pasta... anywhere you might use spinach.