The stinging secrets of nettles

stinging-nettles-498709_640As warmer weather and rain passes through our area, all green living things start to spring into action. This also makes my stepdad mad because the regular grass grows way too fast and he can’t keep up with the mowing – the two sheep I want and keep mentioning about would come in handy, but nooo, Mitchell said it would make the property look ‘cheap’ to potential new buyers; so, for now, we just buy gas for the lawn mower and beer for my stepdad.

Through all the green grasses, clovers, and dandelions, rests a hidden gem: the stinging nettle. Many are familiar with this plant and stay away from it because it stings and blisters appear almost immediately. The affected skin surface becomes itchy and the pain may last for a few hours. Creams containing hydrocortisone and Calamine lotion may be used to provide relief from the symptoms of being stung.

The plant’s defence mechanism are the little hairs found under the leaves and on the stem. When the plant is touched, the little hairs’ tips come off, transforming the hair into a needle that can inject several chemicals like acetylcholine, histamine, 5-HT (serotonin), moroidin, leukotrienes, and possibly formic acid. It is this mixture of chemical compounds that causes a painful sting. (

Fun fact: Nettles are the exclusive larval food plant for several species of butterflies, such as the peacock butterfly or the small tortoiseshell, and are also eaten by the larvae of some moths including angle shades, buff ermine, dot moth, and mouse moth. The roots are sometimes eaten by the larva of the ghost moth. (

What some people might not know is that the stinging nettle is an edible perennial herb.

Every Spring my family goes nuts about picking stinging nettles at the absolute ideal time. It needs to be grown enough, but not too old so it’s still tender – it must be the perfect combination of quantity and quality!

Because I grew up eating stinging nettles, I consider us to be very lucky to have a few patches grow in our back yard. I picked up a full bag last week and mom made a delicious meal out of them. Every plate is then topped with one or two sunny side up egg(s) and you get a perfect dish!

Stinging nettles meal

The secret to picking fresh nettles without cursing getting stung is to use garden gloves or 2 pairs of surgical gloves (worn at once) 😉

  1. wash the nettle pickings under cold water (gloves still on) and leave to drain
  2. in a cooking pot bring water to a boil
  3. blanch the nettles for about 10 seconds in the boiling water (no need for more, as they are very tender)
  4. take out the nettles and let them to drain
  5. in a bowl, using a hand blender or a wooden spoon, mash the nettles to desired texture
  6. rinse the cooking pot, put back on the stove and add a little bit of oil
  7. add 3-4 spoons of flour and mix gently with the oil (a good mixing will stop the flour bubbles from creating)
  8. add the nettles and stir thoroughly
  9. add salt & pepper and minced garlic to flavour
  10. make fresh sunny side up eggs with each serving

Photo by Chef Rookie

By following steps 1 to 5, you’ve got yourself the base for all other recipes that call for stinging nettles 🙂 Here’s a handful of recipes picked just for you (and which I am hoping to try soon):

Garlicky Nettle Pesto from Hogwash – this will be delicious when tossed over a bowl of spaghetti or as a rub for meats.

Spinach and Nettle Crustless Spanakopita from Stitch n’ Boots – two of my favorite greens in one dish! made rich with eggs and feta cheese

Nettle Gnudi from Salty Seattle – ever had gnocchi? (little potato dough dumplings) these are a cousin of gnocchi made with ricotta and wilted nettles

Nettle Aloo from Just Cook It – a filling bowlful of hearty soup with nettles, sweet potatoes, and chickpeas


Stinging nettles can also be used to make teas. The stinging nettle tea is known to clean the blood and stimulate the lymph system to boost immunity. Other benefits of the tea include the help with respiratory tract disease, help to break down kidney stones, to reduce inflammation, to reduce incident of prostate cancer, to lessen nausea, to eliminate allergic rhinitis, to cure the common cold, to alleviate diarrhea, help with gastrointestinal disease, IBS, and constipation, etc.

I drink nettle tea during the times that I feel brave enough to do a total body cleanse and switch to healthy(er) foods (not that I eat much junk anyway)… then we buy bacon from the Farmer’s Market and I cannot resist the smell and sizzling sound on a Sunday morning!

Mom has the best story about stinging nettles! I was maybe a few hours old, very fidgety and whiny. My grandma decided to bring to the hospital some stinging nettles she had prepared to help with any stomach pains I might’ve had. It is known that stinging nettles also help with milk production for breastfeeding women, BUT they have to be prepared as a tea, not a meal… Mom said I was her little elephant for a couple of days 😀

Both my dad and his mom pick stinging nettles without wearing gloves. It is believed the sting the nettles deliver helps to relieve the arthritis symptoms.


Have you ever tried stinging nettles? If yes, in which form? 

9 Thoughts on “The stinging secrets of nettles

  1. No stinging nettles grow in my area. That’s either fortunate or unfortunate. Once I brushed a stinging nettle plant and a man who was with me said, “You’re going to regret that soon.” He was right: the blisters did appear almost immediately. However the pain soon disappeared.
    This is very different from poison ivy’s itchy rash that can last for days.
    That picture of a sunny side-up egg on a bed of nettle looks delicious, too, so while I’d be sure to wear gloves I’d be willing to risk being stung for fresh-cooked nettles.

    • I was weeding the other day and grabbed one full force and all I could do is laugh at myself for not paying attention AND reassured myself that this is good for any arthritis symptoms lol
      Poison ivy is definitely a nasty plant. I went camping with my parents a few years ago and my dad somehow sat on some plants and yup, he was hurting for a good while… lots of creams and pain killers later he said he won’t be so foolish about the posted warning signs.
      Stinging nettles with eggs are definitely worth the stinging risk 😉

  2. I never would have thought of eating stinging nettles in a meal! But, your blog has introduced me to a new idea yet again. 🙂 In my opinion, anything with eggs on top is bound to be delicious. You mentioned doing cleanses–I’ve never tried that before. Are there any particular ones you recommend? I’ve been eating more (and not as healthily) as I used to. So, I’m thinking of doing something to kickstart a whole new me. We’ll see if I actually do that or not. 🙂 Anyway hope you’re having a good start to the week!!!

    • funny you ask because there is a German one I do from time to time! (nettle tea is actually listed for blood cleansing 😉 ) Someone translated it for me, but I will look to find the original and email it to you 🙂 It is a great kick-start/re-start for your metabolism… Caution: headaches are on the menu too, until your body gets adjusted to low carbs. You will be a little edgy the first few days, but it will all pass and you will enjoy it!

  3. I never knew this about nettles. I’m going to give the tea a try. I bet you were a cute little elephant! ☺️

  4. This is so interesting! I bet nettles are high in vit C! I’m going to give them a try.

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