The first shoots of young nettles, Urtica dioica, are very good for cooking both soups (see recipe in wild food post) and tea. According to several sources it is also good nutritionally: a source of iron, calcium and folic acid.
Here's a brief guide to making nettle tea:
- Start by picking the nettles, carefully. Use only the small, young ones - they grow more bitter with age. It is possible to pick them with a firm hand but if you are worried about being stung, using scissors and gloves helps.
- Wash the nettles one by one, to get rid of soil and insects.
- Put the nettles in a pot and add enough water to just about cover them. With some experience, you can adjust the amount of water depending on how strong you would like your tea.
- Boil until the water becomes slightly green - test by lowering a spoon into the pot.
- Remove nettles. The tea might go more bitter if they are left in. (On the other hand, the stronger taste might be exactly, well, your cup of tea..)
- Serve with sugar and sliced lemons. The lemons are very important, as you can see below.
The boiled nettles can be used much like spinach, or eaten as-is with some salt.
Nettle tea has a characteristic feature: it changes colour if you add lemon. Its colour depends on the pH and acidity of the water. Children love to add a slice of lemon and watch the tea magically change from a dark green to a bright pink colour. Play the video below to see it happen!
NB. Some people can experience a sensitivity to nettle tea