Today I took a short hike behind my house to stretch my legs, and to harvest some nettles. While stinging nettles can be a real pain (literally) on summer hikes, this time of year, they are both food and medicine. I like to fry up nettle leaves as a high vitamin side dish, and I make nettle tea, which has a variety of health benefits. On the top of the list, nettle tea has antihistamine properties, which means it’s the perfect treatment for my spring allergies.
The only time of the year allergies really bother me are when the red alder trees discharge their pollen in the spring. So I make it my yearly ritual to do a little nettle harvest hike, which has the added benefit of clearing these painful plants off the trail I like to use with my friend and family.
Nettle tea is so simple to make. Just add roughly two parts water to one part nettle in a pot, bring to boil, then remove from heat and let stand for 10-30 minutes. Strain and sip. Refrigerate the extra and drink it through the week.
There are an abundance of nettle recipes out there from Nettle Pesto to Nettle-Mushroom Pie. But I enjoy the simplicity of sautéed leaves. Heat a frying pan to medium-high and pour in a bit of olive oil. Add washed nettle leaves, salt, pepper, and lemon juice and sauté for about 5 minutes.
ALWAYS WEAR GLOVES when handling nettle, or you will understand where they get their name. Contact with the needle-like hairs on the stem and the bottom of the leaves will cause a burning/stinging sensation that lasts for several hours. Fortunately cooking the nettles completely removes the stinging effects and brings out the woodsy flavor.