We’ve all fallen into a bed of nettles at some point in our lives haven’t we?

They are local, they are fresh, they are free – and they are particularly rich in vitamin C and iron. In medieval times, they were used to treat pain in joints, and as a diuretic.

Fortunately, cooking removes the sting so you won’t be wandering round with tongue rash – just wear gloves when picking them.

Pick them in early spring when they are fresh and young, taking just the first few leaves on each spear.

If you don’t fancy eating the leaves themselves, make a tonic by bringing the leaves to the boil in a saucepan of water. Simmer for 15 minutes and add sugar or honey to taste. Drink hot or refrigerate and drink later with ice on a warm day.

Use the leaves in the same way that you would cook spinach: wilted and buttered as a simple side dish, or added to soups or Indian saag paneer for example.

Local, Fresh and Free

stinging nettles


· 1/4 pound young nettles
· 11 oz risotto rice
· 2 leeks or 1 onion, cleaned and chopped small
· 2 Tablespoons butter or olive oil
· 1/2 cup dry white wine
· 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
· 1 oz grated Parmesan cheese
· Salt and pepper to taste

Nettle risotto


Heat stock in large saucepan and blanch nettle leaves for 2 minutes in boiling salted water, drain and chop very finely.

Cook leeks/onions in a separate pan in half the butter until tender.

Add blanched nettles and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring.

Add rice and cook over a slightly higher heat for 2 minutes while stirring.

Pour in the wine.

Cook, uncovered, until all the wine has evaporated,then add 1 cup hot stock. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally and adding 1/2 cup boiling stock at intervals as the liquid is absorbed into the rice.

After about 14 – 15 minutes, take off heat and stir in the remaining butter.

Sprinkle with the freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste, stirring gently.

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