Nettle is a perennial plant that thrives in woodlands and other shady areas throughout Europe and eastern North America. It is also often found around old barnyard buildings. Stinging nettle is so named because the leaves are lined with stinging hairs that inject histamine into the skin when handled or brushed against. These hairs readily drop off when introduced to hot water or steam. Nettle is one of the first herbs to emerge in early spring and because the leaves are rich in calcium and other nutrients, it is considered a valuable tonic herb. While whole leaves are cooked like spinach or roasted to make crisp snack chips, dried nettle is used in teas or simply sprinkled into cooked foods and smoothies.
This is a highly nutritive plant. Nettles have a particular affinity for the liver and the endocrine system.
Be sure to wear gloves while handling the fresh leaves or they will sting you. Once they are dried or cooked your are safe from the sting!
Try this tasty and nourishing soup.
1 lb stinging nettle leaves (best in spring)
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 potato, diced
4 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a boil with 1 teaspoon of salt. Drop in the stinging nettles, and cook 1 to 2 minutes until they soften. This will remove most of the sting. Drain in a colander and rinse a with cold water. Chop coarsely. If you used the whole plant, trim off any tough stems before chopping.
Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat, and stir in the onion. Cook until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth, potato and chopped nettles. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the potatoes are soft (about 15 minutes). Puree the soup with an immersion blender, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
I like to remove nettles with a slotted spoon and place my potato in the nettle water to partially cook. Then I drain and add the potato and nettles to the onion and chicken broth. The soup can then just be heated and then blended.