Featured Ingredient: Nettle

15 Aug

Nettle is one of my favorite herbs, but maybe I say that about all of them…. It is best harvested in the spring, and if you live in an urban area like I do, then you can look for it in the spring at your local farmer’s market. Not all farms will carry it, but I manage to find fresh nettles once or twice a year. I’ve made nettle quiche and nettle soup from the fresh stuff. If you do ever work with fresh nettles, you must be careful– they are called stinging nettles for a reason. Cooking nettles well will neutralize their sting, but they must be handled with gloves when raw. The stingers are tiny and create an uncomfortable rash.


Stinging Nettles: Urtica dioica

For the rest of the year, nettle leaves can be used in dried form. I recently came across a recipe by a fellow blogger who sited an infusion technique by Susun Weed:

To make an infusion of nettles that’s much stronger than a tea– The ratio is one ounce of dried nettles (about a cup) to 4 cups of water. Pour the 4 cups of boiling water over the nettles and let it steep for at least 4 hours or overnight. Put it in the refrigerator after that, and drink within a couple days.

Susun Weed makes these strong infusions with a variety of different herbs.  I had read about this nettle infusion a little while back, and forgot about it until last weekend, when I went to a meeting with the doula collective that I just recently joined. Low and behold, the doulas were all passing around a jar of strong, vibrant green nettle infusion.  It was in the universe for me to start drinking this. I highly recommend the infusion around the time of menstruation, as it is generally a blood tonic and helps to replace what you lose at this time of month. The doulas were all aware of nettle because it is also just about the best thing to drink for pregnant women. It’s like a multi-vitamin in itself: high in both calcium and magnesium as well as chlorophyl and many other trace minerals are present. Weed advocates the use of nettle leaves for diverse needs. It’s supposed to help with stabilizing blood sugar, normalizing fatigue and weight, restoration of the adrenals and kidneys, for general digestive health, against rheumatism and arthritis, and for lessening allergies as a potent antihistamine. A few years ago, I stopped in an herb store looking for allergy remedies, and the man at the counter pointed me to a supplement made by New Chapter, which specializes in “whole food” supplements. The pills were pure nettles.

Stephen Buhner in his book Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers talks about how nettles were known traditionally as one of the harbingers of spring. Being one of the first greens available in the new year, people used nettles to treat nutritional deficiencies such as scurvy, that occured from their limited winter diet. Buhner lists a few recipes for nettle beers which I haven’t tried yet– that experiment will probably wait until next spring when I can get the fresh nettle tops once more.


My nettle infusion brewing tonight, to be drunk in the morning, next to a glass of nettles infusion, filtered from yesterday’s batch.

After a couple of days, the infusion will start to spoil.  At this point it is still useful as something to water your plants with.  In fact, I have been saving my already used nettles and adding them to my watering can.  I also add eggshells to my plant water, which is another great natural and free fertilizer. Don’t water with this potion when you are expecting guests.  It quite literally smells like shit!

5 Responses to “Featured Ingredient: Nettle”


  1. Stinging nettle | Find Me A Cure - August 18, 2013

    […] Featured Ingredient: Nettle […]

  2. Wild Nettle and Mustard Soup (a fusion of Asian and European flavours and spices) | The Vegan Nomad - September 9, 2013

    […] Featured Ingredient: Nettle (brooklynalewife.wordpress.com) […]

  3. The Conscientious Contrarian | Anne of Blue Bus Books - July 30, 2014

    […] Featured Ingredient: Nettle […]

  4. Summer field trip: Cultured in Berkeley, CA | Brooklyn Alewife - September 10, 2014

    […] just hold tea.  I was intrigued to see one kombucha container that had fresh nettles in it.  (nettles, my favorite!)  Another one held floating juniper berries.  Alex adds herbs into her primary ferments.  I […]

  5. Waning Moon Brew | Brooklyn Alewife - August 4, 2015

    […] leaf is to make it into a mixture.  Lately, I’ve been into mixing red raspberry leaf, nettles, and mugwort together, 1/3 cups of each in a quart infusion.  Nettles works kind of a like a […]

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