Stinging Nettle Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Stinging Nettle

Here at Wolf Camp, we get a lot of questions about Stinging Nettle. It is awesome that so many people are interested in it! It is truly an amazing plant. So, we decided to compile a list of the most frequently asked questions, so that others can learn to use and appreciate Nettle as well.

Stinging Nettle FAQ:

What is the plant in Washington that causes stinging?

It is Stinging Nettle, Urtica dioica.

Is there a time of year when Nettles don’t sting?

No, they sting year round. Even the baby nettles can give you a nice welt on your ankles.

How do I harvest Stinging Nettle?

Head on over to Wolf Camp’s comprehensive guide to Harvesting & Processing Sting Nettle (+ some recipes!)

If I cook Nettle, can it still sting me?

Nope! Also if you dry it, it won’t sting you. You can even it raw without being stung. We teach a special way to harvest it barehanded and how to eat it raw. Ad-Blog-Herbal

When do I gather/harvest Stinging Nettle?

Here in the Pacific Northwest, they start growing as early as January, up through the snow.

Harvest them in the early spring, before they flower. Don’t harvest for eating once they’ve flowered, as they could contain a compound that is hard on the kidneys and/or bladder (educational sources give differing opinions on which organ).

Depending on your region, new nettles come up in the fall and can be harvested before they’re killed by frost.

When do I gather/harvest Stinging Nettle for its fiber?

This is a great question! We like to harvest after they’ve already gone to seed (so that we don’t interfere with that part of their reproduction cycle) but before the rainy season causes the stalks to rot.

How do I dry my Stinging Nettle? How do I store my dried Stinging Nettle?

Check out Wolf College’s comprehensive guide to harvesting and processing Nettle

How do I know if Stinging Nettle is ready to be picked?

As long as it’s not flowering or covered in some strange contaminant, it’s ready. Try to leave the baby nettles alone, so that they can grow. Harvest only what you need, and remember to harvest in different areas, so that the Nettles have the greatest chance of healthy growth.

Can I put raw Stinging Nettles in my salad?

I wouldn’t! You are very likely to get stung in the mouth. Raw nettles will still have formic acid in them, and the hairs will still be able to sting you. A more preferable way to eat them is to saute them like spinach until crispy, and then sprinkle the crispy nettle as a topping on your salad.

How do I dehydrate Stinging Nettle?

You can dehydrate them using a dehydrator, or dry them in the oven. For the oven method, place your clean Nettle neatly on a cookie sheet and warm them slowly in the oven at 170- 180 °F for 1-2 hours. The temperature must be below 200, otherwise the plant will bake rather than dry. The oven door must be left open! The air needs to be able to circulate to dry out the Nettle, so that it doesn’t bake. So, be very careful using this method.

For other drying methods, check out Wolf Camp’s comprehensive guide to processing Nettles.

What are some Stinging Nettle Recipes?

Check out these Wolf Camp Recipes: Nettle Shampoo / Stinging Nettle Tea / other Nettle Recipes

How do I make Nettle Stew?

Make a stew and throw in some clean and fresh Nettle leaves. They cook just like any other dark leafy green (spinach, chard, etc)!

How do I use dried Nettle leaves?

It depends on what you want to make. You can use them to make Nettle tea and Nettle shampoo. You can add them to recipes or herbal remedies. You can feed them to your dog too — a little sprinkle on their food with a bit of water mixed in, or nettle tea (appropriately cooled) on their food.  Our camp dog, Lily (45 pound border collie x blue tick coon hound), gets about a teaspoon of crushed dry leaves along with about a 1/4 cup of water added to her dry food each morning.

Can you freeze Nettles for eating?

Yep! You can also make Nettle Pesto and freeze them into ice cube trays, so that when you want to make pasta with pesto, you have it all ready to go.

There’s a bird’s nest next to Stinging Nettle, what do I do?

Leave it alone! It’s important that we do not disturb nests (and it’s illegal).

What part of the Nettle stings?

Stinging Nettle has tiny hairs all over (top and bottom of the leaf, and even on the stems and stalk) that are hollow and very sharp. Think of them like little hypodermic needles — when we brush up against Nettles the wrong way, they inject formic acid (and some other constituents) into our skin. That’s what gives us the stinging sensation.

Do the young Nettles sting?

Yes! Unfortunately sometimes the tiny baby Nettles can give us good-sized welts.

Can I make a basket out of Nettle?

Yes, the fiber can be used to make cordage, which can then be used to weave a basket. Or make a rope, or a fishing line, or a bow line, or a trap line, etc…

How do I use Stinging Nettle?

You can do almost anything with this amazing plant! You can eat it raw or cooked, you can make a tea, you can make natural beauty products like Stinging Nettle Shampoo, you can use the fiber found in the stalk to make cordage, you can whip painful joints (urtication) and other joint/bone problem areas like sciatica to promote bloodflow to the area.

How do I cook nettle for medicine?

Stinging nettle is extremely nutritive for the body and is even one of the top survival foods for the Pacific Northwest! Typically, stinging nettle is enjoyed as a nutritive infusion, where about 1oz (in weight) of plant material is steeped in 1 quart of hot water for 4 – 12 hours. You can also supplement your diet with yummy cooked/ sauteed nettle.

There are many sources that suggest that nettles could be used for treating many different ailments. Our best recommendation is to consult your naturopathic physician or qualified healthcare practitioner.

Is Stinging Nettle Tea delicious?

Yes!! Check out our recipe

Why are some Stinging Nettle stings stronger than others?

I do not know the answer to that. From my own experience, it really just depends on the plant. I’ve brushed up against some Nettle that never stung me, and have received some stings from a nettle that I swear I never touched.

From experience, it seems that the longer you take to treat a nettle sting, the longer the sensation lasts.

Does Stinging Nettle stop stinging when it’s pulled off the stalk?

Nope! Because the parts that stings you are found on all aerial parts of the plant.

Can I make tea from fresh stinging nettle?

Yes, but in my opinion it has a stronger taste than the tea made from the dried material.

Do Stinging Nettles smell?

Not really, no more than any other leafy green. They don’t have a ‘stinky’ or ‘sweet’ smell.

Learn how to confidently identify plants using their unique family patterns in this in-depth video by author of Botany in a Day, Thomas Elpel!

If you have any questions, please leave us a comment!

Hannah-Staff-Photo-300x225Hannah began her apprenticeship at Wolf Camp in 2013 and graduated as a lead herbal instructor in 2014.  Join Hannah and other Wolf College wild chefs during our annual Wild Cooking & Ethnobotany Expedition: The Herbal Foray the second week of July on Lake Sammamish near Seattle.

Hannah graduated from the University of Oregon in 2014 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Foreign Languages. She has her own blog, where she writes about her love for crafts, animals, plants, cooking, and the outdoors: rainmountaincrafts.com

 

9 Comments



  1. Hi!

    I live in Vancouver BC and I was harvesting stinging nettle yesterday down at the ocean near UBC. I was cutting the top part of the plant that had many fresh leaf shoots still packed near the tip ready to open.

    When I got home and steamed some, they took a long time to steam, at least 15 minutes and when we ate them I could still feel the formic acid somewhere lurking in there. I’m wondering if I should I have waited to let them grow more.

    If I was too soon to harvest, is it still OK for me to use these in other ways, like teas and tinctures and capsules?

    Thanks so much for your help!

    Danielle

    Reply
    1. Chris Chisholm

      Hi Danielle. It’s never too early to harvest as long as some leaves remain on the stalk to keep it growing for the season. It is too late if they start flowering which they will around Vancouver by the end of April usually. I’ll have Hannah or Kim respond with more thoughts on sensitivity to the acidity when one of them gets a chance. In the meantime, drying for teas, tinctures and capsules should be great, and maybe try frying them like you would kale (even to the point of kale-chips type thing) instead of steaming. – Chris

      Reply

  2. Can you cut the entire stem above ground and use the stem and leaves for tea?

    Reply
    1. Chris Chisholm

      Hi Kathy. Yes, as long as they haven’t started flowering yet, at which point they develop compounds creating cystoliths hard on the bladder. However, to keep them growing and not flowering, you can keep harvesting from the same patch longer, experiment with leaving some of the plant/leaves so it can resprout more easily vs taking it down to the base. That said, we are not sure if the cystoliths develop even if the flowers are kept from forming. Research is needed as to whether it’s the flowers themselves, or simply the age of the nettle – the time when they would normally flower and/or seed in your growing season.

      Reply

  3. Hey there! I believe I am fortunate enough to have stinging nettle in my yard! I’m wondering if they are going into flower though. No blossoms but there are tiny little nodes on the stem that look like they will be flowers soon. I’m in central California. Does it sound like it’s too late to harvest?

    Reply
    1. Chris Chisholm

      We are up in the Seattle area so not sure when they flower there. Personally, we do harvest them even when the flowers are barely forming, but we don’t know exactly when the compound(s) start to develop in the flower that cause cystoliths in the bladder, so better safe than sorry, especially if harvesting for more than a one-time experience.

      Reply

  4. I picked very early nettles (at least they looked like nettles). When cooked, they were as bitter as dandelion greens and did not taste like the nice nettles I am used to.

    When very young, are they bitter?
    Is there another plant that resembles nettles?
    Am I at risk of being poisoned?

    Reply
    1. Chris Chisholm

      You need to contact your local conservation district or other plant experts in your area, or call your poison control center for advice. If you don’t know where to call locally or if it’s after business hours, call the national poison control center (800) 222-1222 any time of day for a referral. We have no idea where you are, have no photo to help identify what you ate, and have never heard of nettles tasting bitter, and are educators, not medical professionals. Our strict rules include never putting anything in our mouths that we are not 100% sure is the food we want, and never believe anything we hear, read etc. unless the sources are original and vetted. Plants that look like nettles include those in the mint family, for instance, which are mostly safe but can be bitter, and some are named things like hedge nettle, etc. because they look so similar to nettles. Take care and again, reach out to professionals in your area.

      Reply

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