‘Tis the time for nettles! The arch-nemesis of childhood play, urtica dioica releases its sting through sharp hollow tubes that penetrate the skin. Most of us who had the luxury of growing up near forests and meadows know the familiar burn all too well. I once read that Quileute seal hunters would rub themselves with Stinging nettle before a big hunt to keep them awake all night.
Thankfully, cooking or drying the leaves transform the plant into a flavorful edible that offers surprisingly high amounts of protein, iron, potassium, and vitamin C. Living on an island with no grocery store and a garden not yet producing, nettles are a great solution to getting fresh and free greens. Even with a market around, would you rather eat spinach pre-packaged in a plastic container that traveled for days or go pick your own wild version?
Always wear protective clothes and gloves while harvesting. The younger the nettle the better and the top shoots are the tastiest. Never harvest nettles that grow taller than your knees or are flowering. Simply lob off the top, rinse clean, de-stem, and steam, blanch, sauté, add to soups and quiches, or dry for tea. I recently made a killer fried egg open-faced sandwich. It also makes for a fresh and bright pesto. It has many medicinal qualities that range from diuretic to anti-depressant. Make google your friend to explore more benefits.
When foraging, its always a good idea to pick in moderation from multiple areas as to not destroy the survival of the plant, but with Nettle considered an invasive species, you can go a bit crazy. This is your true “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure” wild edible.
Choose to find the good in nettle this season, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Happy Harvesting!