The Queen of Weeds
Caution when handling - these will obviously sting if handled with bare hands - use gloves or tongs to remove from packaging.
The humble stinging nettle - so undervalued, unrecognised and unappreciated by the modern world - yet if there was one plant I would say is the most important to include in our diets (especially during spring and early summer), it would be this one!
Packed with a ridiculous amount of nutrition, including protein and minerals, this really is the Queen of the weeds in my eyes. Don’t be put off by her prickly appearance. Her sting is a blessing, it stops her leaves being eaten so she is better able to provide protection to the tiny vulnerable insect species in her queendom and is also free to focus much of her energy into producing a huge abundance of seed, to secure future generations and nourish larger species and birds later in the year. You could say that her sting was a vital component of increasing biodiversity in ecosystems. How ignorant we are in removing nettles from our land!
If we could all grow a patch of nettles in our flower beds, or even proudly display a pot of them, in full sun on the patio (to support a cultural shift) - we would be much better off for it and so would nature!
To quote the RSPB website:
‘As well as being beneficial to wildlife, nettles have long running cultural significance, and can be of value to people too.
People have eaten them for centuries and they are a good source of calcium, magnesium and iron among other trace elements and vitamins. They can be used in many soups and stews instead of spinach’’ (1)
Nettles taste very ‘green’ a bit like a supercharged version of spinach. Due to their spines they cannot be eaten raw in a salad, but they can be cooked in exactly the same way as spinach - wilt in some olive oil/butter, steam or boil.
Some foraging chefs recommend soaking the nettles for 5-10minutes in water before cooking to remove the stinging compounds in the leaf. If you have sensitive digestion, this may be advisable. Most foragers and recipes for stinging nettles do not say that this is necessary.
They make a great addition to any vegetable soup and in my opinion very much complement asparagus.
You can add them to a nutrient dense smoothie, blend them up with an apple, a pinch of turmeric and a tablespoon of olive or hemp oil for a vitality ‘top-up’.Ref: