Common name: Stinging nettle, common nettle, nettle leaf
Botanical name: Urtica dioica
Family: Urticaceae (Nettle)
Worldwide distribution: Native to Europe, Asia, northern Africa and North America. Introduced elsewhere.
Local distribution: Widespread in the UK and Ireland.
Habitat: Woodland edges, wasteland and hedgerow banks.
Foraging season: Young leaves early to late spring and second growth early to mid-autumn.
One of the most abundant plants you can find in the wild, nettles are broadly associated with places of human habitation and are an unwanted invader in gardens and allotments, where the soil is fertile and the land is barely neglected.
Nettles are one of the first spring greens to poke through the soil, as early as February, rising from a creeping, underground network of rhizomes that grow with liberal enthusiasm to quickly colonise vast areas.
Sure they sting. The plant has fine hairs on the leaves and stems that contain irritating chemicals, which are released when the plant comes in contact with the skin. However once nettles have been boiled, they no longer sting.
Leaves are edible, preferably young and are typically cooked in nettle & potato soup. They are used as a vegetable leaf in many recipes as a substitute of spinach in omelettes, risottos, curries, quiches and tarts. A popular recipe amongst foragers is the nettle ‘pesto‘.
This fantastic superfood is much underestimated, as it’s is rich in iron, protein and vitamins A, B and C.