It’s amazing what over an inch of rain can do to our prairie landscape after a slow start to Spring. Over the last ten days we saw everything turn green and start growing, and quickly. We were fortunate to finish up seeding in the fields before the rains came. I went out for a walk and found six different types of wildflowers all together on some of our land and weeds galore! I write weeds, as that is what they are to the vast majority of people, but to me they are also useful plants. I was specifically on the hunt for early stinging nettle. Why would I want to pick this “weed” that spreads rapidly through the raspberry patch? Well I had plans for three uses- to cook with, to dry and make tea with, and make soap & balms with.
Stinging nettle is a common native plant that many know for the sting you’ll get if you brush up along it or touch with your bare hands. It is important to wear gloves when picking if you are going to get adventurous. It actually has tiny hairs along each leaf that contain a droplet of formic acid, and when the hair tip pierces you, the acid is injected into your skin which can cause itching or burning for a few minutes up to a few days. Most of the stinging compounds in nettles are destroyed by cooking or drying, but eating large quantities may still cause a mild burning sensation. Anyways, back to the benefits of nettle. Nettle leaves are rich in protein, minerals, iron, calcium, tannins, chlorophyll and vitamins A, C & K. It is a powerful detoxifier and tonic herb that strengthens the urinary, digestive, respiratory and reproductive systems.
I also read the ancient Greeks & Romans cultivated more acres of nettle than any other crop, and they used it extensively as food and medicine as well as in clothing. Interesting fact for you!
Anyways, my 3 year old son and I picked a huge bowl full, as it’s best to pick before it reaches a foot high and flowers. I washed it, saved a cup for soup and dried the rest.
I found some different nettle soup recipes then decided to just make my own recipe. I have to admit that it was extremely tasty. Surprising. Unique. Strong, nutty flavour. My one year old lapped it up and asked for more, my 3 year begrudgingly ate it, and my 33 year old husband was shocked at how good it was after asking “Are you certain this is safe for us to eat?”
My Nettle Soup Recipe:
8 cups chicken bone broth
2 celery stalks
2 garlic cloves
1 cup fresh, cleaned nettle leaves
2 large carrots
½ cup rice & quinoa blend
Salt & Pepper
Next, I dried the remaining nettle which was sad how much it reduced down to. I plan to make myself herbal infusions (steeping in boiling water and letting it soak overnight) for my own health benefits. I also picked and dried raspberry leaves to alternate for my herbal infusion drinks.
I then used some of the dried nettle and grinded it down to a fine powder. I combined it with dried dandelion greens and added it into a new soap bar, called “Dirty Hippy”. It is scented with Basil & Lime essential oils. It is now available in our shop.
So that was my weekend of foraging fun and now we all know about stinging nettle. Have you ever picked and used nettle before? What did you make with it? I’d love to hear about it.