Stinging nettles grow everywhere in the spring and early summer, so now is the best time to use this amazing edible weed. Nettles are full of health benefits; they contain vitamins including C and E, minerals such as iron and magnesium, and they detoxify the body and purify the blood. Boil nettles quickly in a little water before use to remove the stinging effect.
1. Use nettles as a substitute for spinach. Nettles contain a lot of iron and can be used in many recipes that call for spinach. If you make your own pesto sauce, try subsituting some of the basil with (cooked) nettle.
2. Make a detoxifying herbal infusion with nettles and other detoxifying, diuretic herbs or edible weeds such as dandelion. You don’t need to cook nettles before using them in herbal infusions, just pour boiling water over the nettles and leave to infuse. Here is a recipe for a homemade herbal detox infusion.
3. Add chopped or dried and ground nettle to bread dough! A little nettle adds vitamins, minerals and flavor to homemade bread.
4. Dry some of your nettles and blend with other herbs so you can use nettles throughout the year. I make my own blends of dried cooking herbs and wildcrafted herbs: whatever grows in the garden, but usually at least nettle, dandelion, parsley, basil, marjoram, thyme and many other herbs and edible weeds. I use the mix in the winter to add extra flavor and vitamins to soups, stews and almost any foods.
5. Not only is nettle good for the body, but it is also good for the hair. Nettle hair rinses are a natural way to add strength and shine to your hair. Hair rinses are easy to make and are prepared like herb infusions. Use a handful of nettles, place them in a jug or a jar, pour a liter (about 2 gallons) of boiling water over them and leave to infuse until the water cools. Filter well so the water is free of nettle bits, then use to rinse your hair after you have washed and conditioned it as usual. Some people recommend leaving the nettle rinse in the hair for 20 minutes or so and then rinsing one more time, although I often just use the hair rinse as the last rinsing water and leave it my hair until the next wash.
Pick nettles now in the spring when the flavor is the best, and wear gloves to protect your hands. Ideally, pick your nettles from areas where no chemical fertilizers are used. The top leaves in the new young nettles have the mildest and nicest flavor.