This spring, I have collected a lot of chickweed, mallow, hedge mustard and nettle. Most of it I dry. I use the powdered chickweed in an insect repellent, the mallow for a mild cough remedy and hedge mustard to make a spicy powder to add to dishes. But nettle is the plant I can never get enough of. Here are some of the many ways I use nettle greens:
Allergy Relief: I make an infusion of the nettle leaves (dried or fresh) and I drink it regularly in the evenings to relieve congestion and improve my ability to breathe.
Soups: I also add the fresh, dried or frozen nettle greens to soup to make it tastier. In fact, nettle is one of the tastiest wild greens out there, and widely under-rated. If I want a quick meal, I’ll make a package of ramen noodles and add nettle and onion greens.
Foods: I cook nettle greens like spinach and I even drink the water because it is so flavorful. I also add nettle greens to various stews, egg dishes and burritos. I’ve added the dried or fresh leaves of nettle to spaghetti sauce. Powdered nettle added to pancake batter increases the protein content and improves the flavor.
I have periodically met people who survived the hardships of World War II, and among other things, they would say they used nettles and cattails to make nutritious meals. Nettles are a good source of Vitamin C and Vitamin A, according to the USDA’s Composition of Foods. They also contain calcium, phosphorus, potassium and plant protein.
Where to find nettle
In general, nettle is found growing near streams in the wild, in moist or rich soil and often near raspberries and blackberry vines.
In urban areas, it seems to grow everywhere: along roads, in fields, backyards and gardens. I’ve even found it growing in the cracks of the sidewalk at the Highland Park Farmers Market.
Christopher Nyerges has written “Self-Sufficient Home,” “Urban Wilderness,” and other books on self-reliance and survival. He blogs at www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com.