Apart from the slight fact that even the very young plants sting, nettles are a wonderful ingredient to use in soups, pasta dishes, frittatas—basically in any cooked dish where you would use young spinach. They’re certainly worth the slight challenge involved in picking them, for they are rich in vitamin C, calcium, potassium, flavonoids, histamine, and serotonin—all the great chemicals one needs to reenergize after a cold winter and to combat Spring allergies.
To harvest and prepare nettles you will need:
- A good pair of sturdy leather gloves
- A plastic bag
- A pair of scissors
- A long-sleeved work shirt and / or jacket, jeans, sturdy shoes and socks.
The best time to harvest nettles is in late March and April. If they’ve begun to flower, you’ve waited too late.
Make sure that your arms and legs are well-covered, including your wrists and ankles. Find a good stand of nettles well-away from roadsides (where they are at risk of being sprayed by chemicals or otherwise contaminated by car emissions). Nettles thrive in the same conditions as blackberries and can often be found competing for territory with them.