This blog post was written in collaboration with ‘Over Grow the System‘
Nettle is truly an incredible plant – and can make for a delicious and highly nutritious green addition to your meals!
Wild Nettle is widely abundant around the Pacific Northwest, relatively easy and safe to harvest, and is loaded with all sorts of important vitamins and minerals.
The Health Benefits of Nettle
The health benefits of wild nettle are vast and varying. It’s certainly a local super food, that we could all look into consuming more of. Nettle is especially high in Vitamins A, C, K, and several of the B vitamins.
The leaves also happen to be rich in minerals such as zinc, selenium, potassium, and magnesium while the stems contain large amounts of calcium. This highly nutritious herb also acts as an excellent source of plant based iron and even contains some protein and fibre!
Furthermore, eating nettle has been found to help reduce inflammation within the body (1). With nearly all doctors agreeing that “inflammation is the root of all illness” (2) – any food loaded with anti-inflammatory properties, is highly beneficial to become a regular part of ones diet.
Nettles have also been found to help support the lowering of blood pressure, through their ability to stimulate the production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide, when released in the body, acts as a vasodilator of blood vessels, helping them to widen and therefore decrease blood pressure. (3)
Another one of the many health benefits touted by Nettle, is its ability to contribute positively to blood sugar balance. In fact, compounds within the plant seem to play a role that mimics that of insulin (a hormone responsible for regulating blood glucose levels) within the body. (4) This is especially supportive for those who struggle with anxiety, as blood sugar regulation can be an important part of nutrition for anxiety which you can read more about here.
How to Harvest Wild Nettle?
Harvesting Wild nettle (aka stinging nettle), isn’t as painful as it might sound! In order to avoid getting stung, it is highly recommended you wear gloves at all times when handling fresh nettles. Expert harvesters however, explain that if you pinch the stem of the leaf tight enough, you do not get stung (even without gloves). Personally, I don’t consider myself an expert enough yet, so I continue to wear gloves at all times when touching nettles 🙂
Wild nettles are best harvested in early spring, and most tender when harvested less than 12 inches tall. It’s best to harvest the 4 to 5 upper leaves of each plant, lightly tugging the leaf from the stem, or clipping with scissors. You can also cut from the base of the plant to harvest stems, which as mentioned contain high amounts of calcium.
Wild Nettle is highly prolific so over harvesting isn’t a huge concern, however as always, be sure to harvest with respect and leave plenty left in any given area. Just like all plants, Nettle is very sacred and an important part of an ecosystem! Much gratitude to ancient Indigenous wisdom which I have learned so much about wild harvesting and respect for mother earth while doing so.
How to Use Wild Nettles?
The are so many amazing ways in which you can use Nettle!
Listed below are a few of the many:
- Dry it (or steep fresh) for tea
- Sauté it with a touch of oil and add to any meal
- Make nettle soup
- Make a tincture with it
- Use it for pesto (recipe below!)
Recipe: Nettle Pesto
This pesto tastes great on sandwiches, pasta, or roasted veggies. It also happens to be an incredibly beautiful deep green colour!
Nettle Pesto Ingredients
- 1 cup steamed nettles (approx. 2 cups fresh)
- 2 cloves of garlic
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
- 1/4 cup cold pressed olive oil
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
- 2 Tbsp water (plus a few Tbsp more while blending)
- 1 to 2 tsp sea salt
- Bring a pot of water to a boil, and place the nettles in it for approx. 45 seconds (this helps to remove the stinging qualities of the plant)
- Strain the nettles very well. Feel free to reserve the water you boiled the nettles in to drink as a tea – it’ll be highly nutritious!
- Place sunflower seeds in a blender or food processor and mix until they are lightly ground. Then add all other ingredients, including the strained nettles, in a blender or food processor and mix until well incorporated.
- Feel free to add additional water or a dash more oil for easier blending – depending on the consistency you like
- Use this pesto on the dish of choice. If left over, store in a glass jar in the fridge for 5-6 days or the freezer for any longer
As one of the most nutrient dense herbs out there, this powerful herb not only aids in inflammation and blood sugar control, but also boosts the immune system and can help to fill in some of those micronutrient gaps within ones diet. Not to mention, it can be a tasty addition to a meal!
NOTE: as with any type of foraging, be sure you harvest with the up most care. If you are uncertain about identifying wild nettle, do not harvest.
Editor/ Contributor: McKenna Garrison