Four Ways to Enjoy this Spring Herb

Nettle (Urtica dioica) — Spring has officially sprung in California—cherry blossoms are in bloom, the Nettles are popping and of course pollen is floating through the air. For those of you in colder climates, the nettle will begin poking through the last drifts of snow soon enough.

With new Spring flowers comes pollen and for many, allergies ensue. Thankfully we have natural remedies like Nettle for allergy relief. Nettle has been shown to reduce inflammation, especially helpful with hay fever, and does not cause side effects like drowsiness or dry sinuses as many prescription medications do. It can be consumed regularly and in many forms, and it has numerous other health benefits like treating headaches, joint pain and skin ailments as well as its use for hair strengthening and growth. Nettle is pretty darn incredible.

To celebrate early Spring and enjoy the love mother nature is providing, I’d like to share a few ways to prepare the ever plentiful Nettle. I’ve been collecting mine from areas I know have not been treated with pesticides or from yards and farms that have not yet been exposed to animal grazing. Once home, I typically clean and process the Nettle the same night as it doesn’t like to keep in the refrigerator very long, but it can be stored in the vegetable drawer of a fridge (unwashed and in a bag) for a couple of days. The house favorite has been Nettle pesto with pasta, but we’ve even taken to adding sautéed Nettle to poached eggs. Soup is also a lovely option as is Nettle tea.

So grab your gloves and clippers, find a lush patch that hasn’t been enjoyed by critters, and respectfully harvest the Nettle tops (no more than 20% of the plant so there will be regrowth). Choose from one of the below recipes or experiment with your own.

Note: Stinging Nettle can be tricky to handle, but remember that brief exposure to heat will tame the prickly hairs turning the leaves into a flavorful and nutrient-rich green.



Nettle Pesto (2 servings)

3 c fresh nettle leaves
2 cloves garlic
¾ c pine nuts (optional)
¼ c olive oil
½ tsp sea salt
1 Tbs lemon juice
¾ c parmesan

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and drop in nettles for 2-3 minutes (this breaks down the stinging hairs).
  2. Strain nettle and chop coarsely.
  3. Add nettle and all other ingredients to a blender or food processer.
  4. Blend until smooth and creamy and add salt to taste.
  5. Enjoy as is or add to your favorite pasta!
Sautéed Nettle (2-3 servings)

1 lb. fresh nettles (it’s ok to include some of the vine with the leaves)
1-2 Tbs olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
Sea salt to taste

  1. Blanche and/or clean the nettles (though I toss them straight into a hot pan)
  2. Heat a large pan over high heat, add the oil and add the nettle. Cook stirring/tossing frequently until the nettles are tender.
  3. Season with salt to taste and serve.
  4. Makes an excellent side for morning eggs or warm greens with any lunch or dinner entrée.

Nettle Soup (2-3 servings)

1 lb. fresh nettles
2 tsp salt
1 Tbs olive oil
1 white onion, diced
¼ c uncooked basmati rice (or substitute with potatoes or farro)
4 c vegetable broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Plain yogurt or sour cream added as garnish

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and drop in nettles for 2-3 minutes (this breaks down the stinging hairs).
  2. Strain nettle, trim off any tough stems and chop coarsely.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a pan over low-medium heat and stir in the onion. Cook until the onion is translucent and then stir in rice, vegetable broth and chopped nettles. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer until the rice is tender.
  4. Once rice is tender, place all ingredients into a blender and pulse until creamy and smooth. (Add more broth for a thinner texture.)
  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream before serving.

Nettle Tea


1 c fresh nettle leaves
2 c water
Raw honey or sugar to taste

  • Add fresh nettle to water and bring close to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 3-5 minutes. Pour through a strainer and serve with honey, sugar, fresh mint or lemon if desired.  


1 Tbs dried nettle leaves
1 c boiling water
Raw honey or sugar to taste

  • Steep the dried nettle in the hot water for 4-5 minutes and strain. Add honey, sugar, fresh mint or lemon if desired.


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