Stinging nettles are very abundant in the spring and are easily found in a lot of areas surrounding Belfast. Pick when the plant is young. Older plants can be bitter and fibrous. Make sure that they haven’t flowered - you will want to pick before they reach that point. We are fond of blending the nettles with wild garlic and nuts to make a great pesto as an accompaniment for some of our salads in The Cloth Ear.
Equipment Needed - You will need a pair of sharp household scissors, thick gloves, and a plastic bowl with a lid picking. Pick/cut the top 1-2 inches of the plant (this will be the most tender part), it will regrow very quickly and then you can harvest again.
Where to Find - Make sure that you are picking nettles in an area not subject to possible contaminants. For example, you should avoid picking any right by any road, where toxic fumes from cars will have contaminated the nettles. One of the best places to pick them would be from a local forest park, close to a river and well away from any tracks and roads.
How to Prepare - Once you have selected/picked your stinging nettles, place them in a sink of cold water with a couple of sprinkles of salt and leave for at least 10 minutes. The salt will help kill any insects that are present. Once the nettles are washed, dry gently between two cloths remembering to wear gloves when handling. Now your nettles are ready for your next step should it either be for a soup, pesto or maybe even sautéed and added to a pasta dish
Nutritional Value - Nettles are a rich green colour revealing their extremely high iron and chlorophyll content. They are also very high in the minerals calcium, magnesium, silicon, sulphur, copper, chromium, zinc, cobalt, potassium and phosphorus. Furthermore, nettles contain high amounts of vitamins A, C, D, E, and K as well as riboflavin and thiamine. A veritable “super food”!