Handling Nettle Without the Sting

By Deb
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Deb’s family owns a small herb farm and herbal skin care business in Porterfield, Wisconsin. It is there that they play and work with herbs on a daily basis. Deb is a Master Gardener Volunteer, organizer of a local herb group, and a teaches herb-related and soap-making classes for a local technical college, folk school, and right on the farm. (www.petermanbrookherbfarm.com)

Many people think we herbies are crazy when we start talking about the wonderful benefits of harvesting and using nettle. They typically cannot see past the sting and the fact that it is considered a nasty weed.

Commonly considered a weed, nettles are highly nutritious.
Photo by Deb Doubeck

The very best way to handle and harvest nettle, especially if you are extremely sensitive to it, is using typical yellow kitchen gloves and a pair of scissors or pruning shears. We have such an abundance of the plant that I grab the plant by gloved hands and shear several stalks all at once. Nettle is best if harvested before the plant goes to seed, so spring is an excellent time to harvest.

Wear kitchen gloves when harvesting nettle to avoid stinging your hands.
Photo by Deb Doubeck

When I want to dry nettle, I simply wrap the four to six stalks together with a rubber band and then hang to dry. We use dried stinging nettle in one of our soaps, more so for the beautiful, natural green color than for the actual benefits to the skin. It can also be used as a tea and it can be added to dishes–nettle is extremely nutritious.

Dried nettle can be used in a variety of projects, including teas and soaps.
Photo by Deb Doubeck 

Stripping the stalks of leaves and wilting or blanching stinging nettle will remove the sting of the plant. Once blanched, it tastes and looks very similar to spinach and the leaf can be consumed.

Blanching the nettle will remove its sting so that it can be easily consumed.
Photo by Deb Doubeck

After blanching I use a coffee filter or something similar to remove any plant material or debris from the tea. Once strained, it can be used as stock for noodles, added to soups, added to smoothies, or simply drunk down as a nice, warm tea. A nettle stock is also very easy to add to foods without family members knowing they are eating something that’s really good for them!

This nutritious nettle tea is great for sipping or soup stock.
Photo by Deb Doubeck

Happy herbal! 

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