Urtica dioica (Stinging Nettles)

Serving Urtica dioica for Dinner

 Stinging nettles are considered by many to be the most delicious, wild, edible herb. They are incredibly nutritious as they are a source of iron, calcium, folic acid, potassium, manganese, carotenoids and vitamin C. Their taste is said to be comparable to spinach but with a slightly greener and earthier flavor. Stinging nettles are safe to eat after they have been soaked in water, boiled or steamed to denature their stinging properties. There is only a small risk of an allergic reaction occurring from eating nettles. However, some people have reported stomach irritation, indigestion and diarrhea after eating nettles.

Stinging nettles can be eaten plain (after being soaked), as a substitute for spinach in any dish or as described in the recipes below.

Picking Stinging Nettles

Take care when picking nettles as the sting is painful. The stem and leaves can be used in most recipes but only use the leaves when making tea. Pick the smaller nettle plants, 1-3 feet in height, as the larger plants are not as tender. When picking leaves for tea, pick only the small young leaves found on the upper portion of the plant (the topmost two or three sets of leaves) as they grow more bitter with age. It is possible to pick nettles with a firm hand but if you are worried about being stung, using scissors and gloves helps.

 Nettle Tea

Recipe adapted from: <http://www.woodlands.co.uk/blog/plants-flowers/a-cup-of-nettle-tea/>


  • After picking nettle leaves, wash the individual leaves to rid them of dirt and insects.

  • Place the nettle leaves in a pot and add enough water to just about cover them. With some experience, you can adjust the amount of water depending on how strong you would like your tea.

  • Boil until the water becomes slightly green. Test this by lowering a spoon into the pot to check the color.

  • Strain out the nettles. If left in too long, the tea may become bitter. But if you prefer strong tea, allow them leaves to steep longer.

  • Serve simply green or with sugar and sliced lemons. When lemons are added the pH of the tea changes and as a result the color of the water changes from dark green to bright pink.


Recipe adapted from: <http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/Recipes/Sauces-244/Stinging-Nettle-Pesto-1365.aspx>


 -6 cups fresh nettle, blanched and  roughly chopped
Allium sativum (garlic) cloves, finely chopped
-1/3 cup pine nuts
-1/2 cup grated parmesan
-1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil


  • Blanch the nettles in boiling water for a minute. Drain and roughly chop them.

  • Mix the blanched nettle, pine nuts, parmesan, and a little salt and freshly ground pepper, in a food processor. Blend the mixture until it is smooth, scraping down the side occasionally. While the motor is running gradually pour in the olive oil until well distributed.

  • Store the Pesto in a jar with a lid ad tight seal and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use. Substitute into any dish that would normally use basil pesto.

 Nettle Soup

Recipe adapted from: <http://localfoods.about.com/od/spring/r/NettleSoup.htm>


-2 Tbsp. butter, divided
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
1 lb. potatoes, peeled and chopped
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 lb. stinging nettles
-1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
-1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)

-Sour cream, yogurt, or Horseradish Cream (optional)


  1. In a large pot, melt 1 Tbsp. butter over medium-high heat. Add onion and 1 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft, about 3 minutes.

  2. Add potatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a steady simmer and cook 15 minutes.

  3. Add nettles and cook until very tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 Tbsp. butter, pepper, and nutmeg.

  4. Puree soup with an immersion blender or in a blender or food processer in batches. For a silken, less fibrous texture, run mixture through a food mill or sieve.

  5. Stir in cream, if using. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.

  6. Serve hot, garnished with sour cream, yogurt, or Horseradish cream.

Makes 4 to 6 servings


 Nettle Gnocchi

Recipe adapted from: <http://www.lifeinitaly.com/garden/stinging-nettle.asp>


-Nettle Pesto (recipe above)
2 1/2 cups Solanum tuberosum (potatoes)
4 Sun-dried tomatoes

3/4 cups flour



  • Boil potatoes, cut into pieces and pass them through a vegetable filter. Paste in the flour until well mixed, then separate the mixture into thumb-size lumps, or "gnocchi", cover them in sieved flour and leave them to sit for an hour or so.

  • In the meantime blend the tomatoes with the prepared nettle pesto until creamy.

  • Drop the gnocchi into boiling, salted water and when they rise to the surface they are cooked.

  • Drain the gnocchi and toss with tomato-pesto mixture. Decorate with a few pistachio nuts and enjoy with any red wine that you can find in the house.

Think these recipes sound delicious? Check out these people who eat raw stinging nettles for fun!

Or move on to the next page of this website where you can learn about the medicinal uses of nettles.