Stinging Nettle – A Wild and Unruly Plant

Urtica urens – annual nettle

A sure sign of spring is the new nettle shoots that are growing on the perennial nettle Urtica dioica (below left)

  • . Urtica urens (left) is the other common variety which is annual stinging nettle or dwarf nettle which I have been eating all winter.  It doesn’t mind cooler weather.
  • Annual nettle is common in gardens, under trees and waste places, preferring light soils grows up to 60cm tall usually on a single stem, and has short stinging bristles on the stems & serrated leaves has clusters of tiny flowers in the leaf axils where the leaf meets the stem (photo below)
    Annual nettle flowering

    Annual nettle flowering


    Urtica dioica

  • perennial clump forming nettle
  • to 1.5m tall if left undisturbed.  It goes to flower in summer and  the tall stems die and it goes dormant over winter.
  • I grew mine in two containers to stop it spreading and we cut it down regularly and soaked it for 7-21 days to make a nutritious liquid plant food – it is said to be an insect repellent and a good foliar feed for plants
    brushing the leaves of both varieties of nettle causes tiny bristles to release the poison histamine which stings
  • Urtica dioica - perennial nettle

    Urtica dioica – perennial nettle

    an antidote usually grows nearby such as dock or plantain – rub the leaves on the affected area

  • grasping the leaves firmly (as in the saying “grasp the nettle” and be decisive) avoids being stung or use scissors to cut the leaves
  • the sting becomes harmless when the leaves are dried, cooked or blended
  • great in quiches, frittatas and soup (recipe below) as well as smoothies. Use like spinach or silver beet.Nutritional qualities
  • nettles are highly valued by herbalists for their healing properties
  • powerful blood cleansing and blood building plants
  • rich in iron they are beneficial for anaemia, and other blood disorders and to boost energy levels
  • diuretic (reducing excess water in the body)
  • hair tonic, boil some leaves and once cooled rinse your hair with the strained liquid
  • diminishes the susceptibility to colds
  • restores digestion and deeply nourishes, because of so much nutrition
  • Nettles are an excellent source of calcium, magnesium and chlorophyll, high in chromium, cobalt, iron, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and sulphur and protein B Vitamins,Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin A
  • Nettle helps lessen allergies and menopausal problems
  • as well as being a powerful preventative of rheumatism
  • This is a wonderful wild plant, that deserves greater appreciation.Recipes
    To make an infusion (strong steeped tea): use 30gms dried leaves or two handfuls of cut-up fresh leaves in a quart/litre preserving jar. Fill the jar with boiling water, put the lid on and let it steep overnight at room temperature. Drink 1 or 2 cups per day.
    You can also make a tea using an amount that gives you the strength of tea you like (maybe a teaspoon) of leaves in a teapot, steeping the brew for 5 minutes and then enjoy.
    Nettle Soup
  • 4 large handfuls of nettle tops (use gloves and ‘grasp the nettle’)
  • 1 large onion
  • 50 gm butter or coconut oil

    Stinging Nettle Soup

    Stinging Nettle Soup

  • 2 potatoes
1 litre of vegetable stock
1 tbs crème fraîsche or yoghurt
  • Seasoning including grated nutmeg
  • Strip the nettles from the thicker stalks and wash
  • Melt the butter and simmer chopped onion until translucent
  • Add the nettles and chopped potatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes
  • Add the stock and simmer for 20 minutes, using a wooden spoon now and then to crush the potatoes
  • Add the seasoning with a little grated nutmeg and a swirl of crème fraîsche or yoghurt
  • If you prefer a smoother soup, liquidise before serving.
  • Reheat, add the other seasonings and serve. from
  • “Food for Free” by Richard Mabey, Harper Collins Press, 1972.Nettle Smoothie– really yum!!
    lots of greens like kale, chickweed, hollyhock leaves, lettuce, speedwell, including three sprigs of nettle, a banana, blueberries, a kiwifruit, some chia, turmeric and 250mls water. All blended up together to get the bubbly result below!

    Stinging Nettle smoothie

    Stinging Nettle smoothie


2 Responses to “Stinging Nettle – A Wild and Unruly Plant”

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  1. Mary says:

    One Christmas I made nettle soup, slightly different recipe, no potatoes and a base of carrots and onions. People were so nervous to try it. But the exclamations of my god it is delicious were very satisfying.
    But I now have a problem, Over the years the yellow admiral butterflies has visited and the caterpillars have decimated my patch.
    Last year I had no nettles, has anyone got some seed?

  2. Julia says:

    HI Mary, gosh I have not head of butterflies decimating nettle to the extent of it dying out! I assume you are meaning the perennial nettle Urtica dioica? I don’t have seed but I could aim to save some for you this season. I had a big patch of it at the farm but now that I’ve moved to town I have it in a pot waiting to be planted in the ground somewhere. Good luck sourcing some seed or a new plant.