Nettles: That Most Spring of Things

garlicky nettles

Dr Suhas, that great luminary of Ayurvedic healing, reminds us that eating our greens can be the best medicine, but he adds that greens should always be prepared with two things: garlic and lemon.

nettle leaf

Yes, nature’s medicine can be delicious.

nettles mandala

Thinking of all the lemony, garlicky greens we find in Italian, French, Greek, Chinese, African and just about every “heritage” cuisine, I am reminded again of how intuitively Ayurvedic wisdom is alive in every culture that grew up from a deep relationship with the land.

One of those classic heritage dishes is this  lemony-garlicky sauté of nettles – simple, delicious, and medicinal.

sauteed nettles-web

Why nettles? One thing wisdom elders and grandmothers knew was that the nettles growing wild in spring are delicious, potent medicine for so many of our spring concerns. As an astringent, diuretic, anthelmintic, antihistamine, decongestant, and detoxifier, nettles help your body manage the Kapha tendency of spring, especially sinus congestion, allergies, asthma.

Nettles are so good for you that my friend, the great medicine woman Shannon Thompson, recently said, “It’s easier to list the few thing nettles don’t help.”

nettles and berry blooms

Where? Nettles grow abundantly in wooded areas, by river beds, and around abandoned buildings… but if you can’t find them in your neighborhood, Traditional Medicinals makes a fine nettle tea and Frontier sells the leaves and roots in bulk. (I do not have an affiliate relationship with these companies. I do appreciate their integrity and products, and I want to help you access this natural medicine as best you can.)

Be sure to wear gloves when working with nettles. Once they are cooked, they are tender and harmless, but until then, they can really sting. And sting with a lasting vengeance. If that happens, put your hands in ice water. Then wash with soap. Use tape to extract the nettle thorns (which can be invisible). Apply a thick paste of baking soda (mixed with scant water) and allow to dry before washing off. Finally, eat your cooked nettles for the antihistamine.

sauteed nettles

Sautéed Nettles with Chewy Crunchy Garlic
Serves 2

a double handful of nettles, rinsed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T ghee or refined coconut oil
1/2 lemon
pink salt & freshly cracked black pepper to taste
optional: extra virgin olive oil, red pepper flakes

Melt ghee or coconut oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Stir in the garlic, and sauté for a few minutes, swirling the pan now and then to distribute the heat. As soon as the garlic begins to getting golden, add the nettles. Cook a minute or two, stir and gently turn. Cook another minute or two and remove from heat once the leaves begin to lightly brown.

Squeeze a generous amount of lemon juice over the nettles, then season with black pepper and pink salt to taste (it shouldn’t need much salt thanks to the lemon). As you serve the nettles, you may optionally drizzle with olive oil, or sprinkle with red pepper flakes.

Another option to boost the health benefits is to stir a scant teaspoon of turmeric powder in with the sautéing garlic just before adding the nettles.

nettles with crunchy garlic

I mentioned Dr. Suhas. He and is wife, Dr. Manisha, are two of my great mentors. I offered Dr. Manisha’s book Eternal Beauty in this post, and offer you now Dr. Suhas’ new book,  The Art and Science of Vedic Counseling, co-written with another of my longtime mentors and friend Dr. David Frawley.

“The Art and Science of Vedic Counseling” is the best counseling guide available for students, teachers, and practitioners of Ayurveda, Yoga, and related healing arts. The book is an ever-cherished collection of knowledge, wisdom and a practical, clinical reference. I highly recommend the book to all who love Yoga & Ayurveda.”
~ Vasant Lad, Ayurvedic Physician

If you would like to be entered to receive this book, please leave a comment below.

how to cook nettles
Do you suffer from spring allergies? If so, I highly recommend a daily dose of nettles – along with this great article from Banyan Botanicals on Ayurveda’s approach to allergies.

Do you have a favorite nettle recipe? Do you have memories of a grandmother harvesting greens in spring? How do you keep the traditions of nature’s medicine alive in your life, your family, our world? I would love to hear. Thank you & Namaste!

Do you have a favorite nettle recipe? Do you have memories of a grandmother harvesting greens in spring? How do you keep the traditions of nature’s medicine alive in your life, your family, our world? I would love to hear. Thank you & Namaste!


20 thoughts on “Nettles: That Most Spring of Things

  1. I delight in your sharing. The photos are beautiful. I have eaten nettles gathered by friends. Would love to find them (carefully!) in the wild. Maybe I will grow them in my garden someday.

    1. Thanks Mindy. Apparently, nettles really like humans and happily grow alongside us – as long as they, like us, get enough water. We are more family than we realize, right? Good luck with your garden. I hope one day you will share your photos of the beauty that inspires you.

  2. Just the other day I was telling my Neighborh about harvesting and eating stinging nettle! Most think of it as a painful nuisance, yes, it can be….. But most plants are misunderstood! Same with dandelions!
    I’ve planted an organic medicinal herb garden in the backyard so I can pass along and share the knowledge with family and friends!

  3. What?! Dr. Suhas new book?!
    Put my name in the draw for sure!
    You share such wonderful resources!

  4. Speaking of nettles, I just found the abundance of particular “weeds” in the garden to be ‘dead nettles’ a variety of non stinging nettles, also delicious and nutritious! Thank you for the recipe!

  5. Just the other day I was discussing with my Neighborh about eating stinging nettle for its medicinal properties!while working as an instructor at the 6th grade outdoor school Camp Fox I told my students about this plant, and one would always hastily pick a leaf and place it on their younger!
    Yes, although a little tricky to pick and prepare, it does wonders for the immune system.
    This year I planted a fully edible, organic herb garden in my backyard with joy and hopes of sharing natures wisdom with my growing family and friends.

  6. Last spring I made pesto using the nettles on my country property, and it was the most vibrant green pest colour I have seen! And the taste was so delicious and flavourful. I didn’t write the recipe, but used some extra virgin cold pressed olive oil, generous cloves of garlic, two cups of nettles, (very lightly steamed to remove the sting and enhance flavour) about 1/4 cups of walnuts, raw cashews or pine nuts, pink sea salt, black pepper, and some lemon juice. Chop nettles coarsely in food processor, then add the garlic, olive oil, nuts, seasoning and lemon juice and process until fairly fine but with some texture. Delicious on polenta pizza, or steamed veggies and brown rice.

  7. I know nettles very well. When I was a child my very old aunt lived in the countryside next to Major Lake and she made the minestrone with nettles. At that time, it sounded odd to me, just now I appreciate it.
    Thanks for sharing

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