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“stinging Nettles” Taste Like Spinach

Like many Americans, I’ve been eating since November – Thanksgiving turkey, Christmas cookies, and Valentine’s indulgences. I completed my eating frenzy yesterday with a chocolate bunny (ears first, of course).

This means it’s time for another annual custom — shedding winter padding and getting ready for “bikini weather” or in my case, “basketball shorts weather.”

Looking for the latest in slimming suggestions, I ran across the “Spring Clean Eating Guide” on Shape Magazine’s web site ( The guide includes “50 Spring Foods for Weight Loss,” among them a plant I never knew was edible –

The Lowly Stinging Nettle

The thing about stinging nettles is – they sting. A lot. I inadvertently pulled some up once, because the smart boy in high school botany class said it would be a good plant for our required “specimen book.” You can imagine how funny I thought he was. If only I’d realized that pretty plant was really Urtica Species Laportea Canadensis. The Latin word uro literally means, “I burn.”

Stinging Nettles
Photo by Mukerjee, 2013
Creative Commons Attribution
Wikimedia Commons

So, if you decide to add stinging nettles to your diet, wear rubber gloves until after you boil them. Once cooked, nettles are good for you. They have calcium, vitamins A, B, C, and iron. They release toxins. And, they taste like spinach – at least I’m told they do. You can substitute nettles for spinach in soups, dips, and even spinach pie.

I don’t think nettles would be a good salad choice. In fact, I had my doubts about all the serving suggestions. So, I “Googled” the words “Stinging Nettle Soup.”

Nettle Soup at St. John’s Restaurant
Photo by Ewan Munro
Creative Commons Attribution
Wikimedia Commons

To my surprise, I several recipes appeared as well as this picture of the Nettle Soup served at St. John Restaurant in Smithfield, London.

The folks at call Stinging Nettle Soup “dense and delicious.” You be the judge – I’m much too cowardly.

1. Boil a large pot of water with 2 tsp salt.
2. Drop in a pound of stinging nettles (which I hope you don’t touch with your bare hands).
3. Cook nettles a couple minutes to remove the sting. Drain. Rinse. Coarsly chop.
4. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan.
5. Stir in diced white onion. Cook about 5 minutes.
6. Add 1/4 cup basmati rice, 4 cups chicken broth, and the nettles.
7. Bring to boil. Reduce heat. Cover. Cook about 15 minutes until rice is done
8. Puree the soup.
9. (Some recipes add cream.)
10. Enjoy

Do you have experience with stinging nettles? Do you like to eat them? Leave a comment.


Author Sandra Wagner Wright

Sandra Wagner-Wright holds the doctoral degree in history and taught women’s and global history at the University of Hawai`i. Sandra travels for her research, most recently to Salem, Massachusetts, the setting of her new Salem Stories series. She also enjoys traveling for new experiences. Recent trips include Antarctica and a river cruise on the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel.

 Sandra particularly likes writing about strong women who make a difference. She lives in Hilo, Hawai`i with her family and writes a blog relating to history, travel, and the idiosyncrasies of life.



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