Monday, February 20, 2012

Nettles in Winter

There has been a different feel to the air in the mornings lately. It feels a little warmer, the cold doesn't nip as harshly, and from every direction the birds are singing. I decided it must be time to go check my favorite nettle spot. Last weekend, I took my daughter out to the ancient old maple at the edge of a hazlenut orchard where I found such a jackpot of fresh green nettles last year I hardly knew what to do with them all, and sure enough, little sprigs of fuzzy green were popping up everywhere from under their brown blanket of maple leaves.

Encountering these lovely little green shoots in the middle of February felt much like running into an old friend I hadn't seen in a while, and I couldn't help but doing some gleeful whooping and hollering. Those nettles were a sight for sore eyes, and I wasted no time snapping off the fresh green tips and filling my basket. At some point I even took off my gloves and started picking them bare-handed, noting any stings as a minor price to pay for such a bountiful treat.

As I picked (I say "I" here rather than "We" because my daughter got sidetracked by the giant old maple tree that she couldn't help but climb around on, but she was a good nettle picking cheerleader nonetheless), I thought of all the things I would make with my wild treasures. Nettles and eggs, nettle broth, nettle miso soup, nettle tea, rice with nettles, and many more creative dishes I had yet to discover. Really, I just planned to throw them in everything. If I'm really industrious in my picking this year, I'll end up with a few jars of dried nettles for the winter months. I'm even thinking of playing around with putting them in chocolates. Nettle truffles keep running through my mind.

I pulled a few rhizomes to plant in the hillside by the front steps to my new home, so I am hoping to get my own little nettle patch going once again. In the meantime, the nettle season is just beginning, and wildcrafting opportunities abound.

Give thanks for wild greens.


  1. Im looking forward to making this:

  2. Sounds delightful! I was also happy to read about kids getting out there and knowing their wild plants. Thanks for passing it along!

  3. I have been so intrigued by these nettles since you posted about them last spring. I've heard mention of them here in NW PA, but I've never been able to figure out where to find them (or to correctly ID them). I'm determined this spring to find some! I just don't want to pick something I shouldn't eat. (you'd never guess that my graduate thesis was on old growth forests with tons of time spent IDing woodland plants! I'm so out of practice)

  4. Don't worry Rachael, you'll find them. ID-ing plants for eating is a whole different thing than when you're doing it for research. If you can find a local wildcrafter and go out on a walk with them, I always find it helps if someone shows me first. Happy nettle hunting!