Free from the Fields: Stinging Nettles

stinging nettle – urtica dioica

An 1844 edition of Chamber’s Journal lauds the many benefits of consuming stinging nettle tea. The journal claims that nettle tea can cure measles and serve as a nutritious panacea. It cites a charming rhyme which gave instruction for brewing nettle broth:

Gin ye be for lang kail
Cow tho nettle, stoo’ the nettle;
Gin ye be for lang kail
Cow the nettle early.

Cow it laigh, cow it sune,
Cow it in the month of June
Stoo’ it e’er it’s in the blume;
Cow the nettle early.

Cow it by the auld wa’s,
Cow it where the sun ne’er fa’s,
Stoo’ it whan the day daws;
Cow the nettle early.

The plant is indeed a powerhouse of health-giving properties. Nettle broth, or tea, is rich in antioxidants and vitamins A, C, D, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium. Nettle is also surprisingly high in protein. And you need not only use the nettle for tea; the fresh plant can be consumed in a variety of dishes; cooking removes the toxic compounds found in the plant. Nettle is frequently used in soups, pesto and polenta dishes.

Nettle can also ease eczema and soothe arthritis. The tea can help one overcome the pangs of caffeine withdrawal and also subdue nasty seasonal allergies.

stinging nettle, schematic illustration

This wonderful plant is native to Europe, Asia, northern Africa, and North America. Harvest it and use it for flavorful teas or in soups and stews. For more directions on how to harvest and prepare stinging nettles visit And here’s a recipe for stinging nettle soup from Serve it with a crusty bread and white wine.

Stinging Nettle Soup

1/2 cup butter
3 cups sliced onions
3 cups potatoes, cut into chunks
3 cups chicken stock
1 ounce nettles leaves
Small bunch of chives, snipped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Heavy cream, to serve

Directions: Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the sliced onions, cover and cook for about 5 minutes until just soft. Add the potatoes to the saucepan with the chicken stock, cover and cook for 25 minutes longer. Wearing latex gloves, remove the nettles leaves from their stems. Rinse the leaves under cold running water, then dry on paper towels. Add to the saucepan and cook for 5 minutes longer. Ladle the soup into a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Return to a clean saucepan and season well. Stir in the chives and serve with a swirl of cream and a sprinkle of pepper.


Baumgarthuber, Christine. Fermented Foods: The History and Science of a Microbiological Wonder. Reaktion Books, 2021.

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