Benefits of the nettle? Yeah that’s one thing. So put on thick gloves this weekend and prepare for the battle with nettles. No, not weeding, but foraging. Because it turns out that if you treat them properly, these painful and invasive plants can actually do more good than harm.
Richer in protein than almost any other green leafy vegetable, tasty and more nutritious than spinach, kale or asparagus, nettles deserve a place on our plates and in our gardens.
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Celebrity chefs Gordon Ramsay, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver agree, and they all have nettle recipes in theirs Cookware.
In a video on Jamie Oliver’s YouTube channel, the top chef shows how to make a simple Nettle ravioli, first the leaves foraging, gloves ready. He uses nettles in soups, pasta sauces, risottos and even sprinkles the braised leaves on quiches and pizzas.
“That unloved little green, let’s give them some love,” urges Oliver and adds: “The next time you go for a walk, there might be a dish for you.”
Benefits of the nettle – and how to use it
Stinging nettles are packed with iron and vitamins C, A, and B, and are high in calcium and protein.
“Nettles are good nutritional and general tonic for the body,” as collector Rachel Lambert puts it, but did you know that they play an important role in our gardens and in the country too?
Stinging nettles, as Alysia Vasey of Yorkshire Forages explains, “are one of the few plants that actually give back more to the soil than it absorbs by enriching it by transferring nitrates. They are also the absolute favorite of all butterflies and moths. ”
Dried or cooked leaves can be used to enrich the feed for laying hens, while fresh leaves and stems can be added to compost heaps to speed up the composting process or left in a bucket of water to break down into nitrogen-rich liquid plant food.
Food for the soil, food for wildlife, food for healthy bodies. Nettle: the ultimate superfood.
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How to pick nettles
To pick nettles, wear gloves and watch your legs and ankles. Choose a location away from roads and dog runs and of course wash your food thoroughly.
Foraging expert, author and guide Rachel Lambert has this advice: ‘Just pick the top four to six leaves that encourage the plant to regrow (picking is good for the plants) and stop picking at the first sign of kitten-like flowers.’
Reseller Alysia Vasey Yorkshire Foragers supplies top chefs and restaurants with feed. She has the following warning about nettles: “They have vitreous spines, and each stinger carries poison. If you stab yourself try not to touch it as you risk poking the glass further into your skin like a thorn and releasing more venom.
And what about nature’s antidote? “Look for dock leaves and grind your hand to crush them. They release a natural antihistamine and help against the sting. ‘
Nettle recipe tricks
Never eat raw nettles. They always need to be boiled or blanched. Boiling nettle completely removes the sting.
Adds Alysia Vasey, “The secret to a great nettle recipe is to remove the stems. We do this for chefs, and we spend a lot of time cutting the leaf off the stem with scissors and sometimes two pairs of gloves! Nettle stems have incredibly tough stems that were traditionally used to make rope, so only use the nettle leaf. ‘
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“The trick is to blanch them, not extinguish them, so they keep the flavor and vitamins, but not the sting.”
Vasey then flashes the blanched leaves and uses them to make gnocchi, pesto, and soup. “It’s really about replacing your favorite green leaf vegetable with nettle. And it’s free, ”she adds.