blanch nettles

Removing the Sting: How to Blanch Nettles for Safe Consumption

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As a nature lover, there is something truly magical about foraging for wild edible foods. One such food that I have a particular affinity for is the humble nettle. Nettles are highly nutritious and have been used for centuries as a medicinal herb and food source. However, their stinging hairs can make them a bit challenging to handle. Fortunately, there is a simple solution – blanching. In this article, I will share with you how to blanch nettles to remove their sting and make them safe and delicious for consumption.

blanch nettles

Why do nettles sting?

First, let’s talk about why nettles sting. Nettle plants are covered in tiny hairs that act as little needles, injecting histamine and other irritants into the skin. This is what causes the stinging sensation and the itchy rash that many people associate with nettles. However, once nettles are cooked or blanched, the stinging hairs are neutralized, making them safe to eat.

How to blanch nettles

To blanch nettles, you will need a pot of boiling water and a pair of tongs or a slotted spoon. Here is how to do it:

  1. Start by picking fresh nettle leaves, wearing gloves to protect your hands from the stinging hairs.

  2. Rinse the nettle leaves under cold water to remove any dirt or debris.

  3. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and add a teaspoon of salt.

  4. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, carefully add the nettle leaves to the boiling water.

  5. Let the nettles cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure that all the leaves are submerged.

  6. Remove the nettles from the boiling water and immediately plunge them into a bowl of ice water. This will stop the cooking process and preserve the vibrant green color of the leaves.

  7. Drain the nettles and squeeze out any excess water.

blanch nettles

How to Use Nettles

Now that you know how to blanch nettles, you can use them in a variety of recipes, from soups and stews to pasta dishes and pesto. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Nettle Soup: Combine blanched nettles with sautéed onions, garlic, and potatoes. Add vegetable or chicken broth and let simmer until the potatoes are tender. Purée the soup until smooth and season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg.

  2. Nettle Pasta: Sauté garlic and blanched nettles in olive oil. Toss with your favorite pasta and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

  3. Nettle Pesto: Combine blanched nettles with garlic, toasted pine nuts, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese in a food processor. Pulse until smooth and season with salt and pepper. Serve over pasta, grilled chicken, or spread on crusty bread.

Nettle Health benefits

Now that you know how to blanch nettles, let’s talk about the benefits of consuming them. Nettles are packed with nutrients, including vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium. They are also rich in antioxidants and have been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments, from allergies and arthritis to urinary tract infections and anemia. Here are some of the health benefits of nettles:

  1. Anti-inflammatory: Nettles have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation in the body, making them an excellent choice for people with arthritis or other inflammatory conditions.

  2. Digestive Aid: Nettles can help relieve digestive issues such as constipation, diarrhea, and bloating. They stimulate the production of digestive enzymes, which helps break down food and aids in the absorption of nutrients.

  3. Allergy ReliefStinging nettle leaf may be useful in reducing the symptoms of hay fever by acting as an anti-inflammatory. Some research has linked treatment with stinging nettle leaf to relief of symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes.

  1. Blood Sugar Control: Nettles may help control blood sugar by decreasing blood glucose, increasing insulin secretion, and reducing inflammation in people with type 2 diabetes.

  2. Bone Health: Nettles are a rich source of calcium and other minerals that are important for bone health. Consuming nettles regularly may help prevent osteoporosis and other bone-related conditions.


It’s worth noting that some people should avoid consuming nettles. While stinging nettle can provide many health benefits, it is important to be aware of the precautions associated with its consumption. Individuals who are allergic to stinging nettle or plants in the Urticaceae family, taking certain medications, have kidney problems, or are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult with a healthcare professional before consuming stinging nettle.

In conclusion, nettles are a versatile and highly nutritious wild edible food that can be used in a variety of recipes. By learning how to blanch nettles, you can remove their sting and make them safe and delicious for consumption. Not only do they taste great, but they also offer a range of health benefits, from reducing inflammation and relieving allergies to supporting bone health and regulating blood sugar. If you’re a nature lover and enjoy foraging for wild edible foods, nettles are definitely worth adding to your repertoire. Just be sure to wear gloves when harvesting and handle them with care until they’ve been blanched.

bitter herbs -blanch nettles - spring herbs

Learn more about nettles

Let’s go beyond how to blanch nettles! If you’re interested in learning more about the many benefits of stinging nettle, we invite you to check out our other articles on the topic. Whether you’re looking for delicious and nutritious recipes, or want to learn more about the benefits of foraging for this versatile plant, we’ve got you covered. 

Our articles include a nettle frittata recipe that’s perfect for springtime, as well as 10 other easy and delicious nettle recipes you won’t want to miss. Additionally, we explore the many benefits of foraging for stinging nettle, from its nutrient-rich profile to its potential health benefits. So why wait? Check out our other articles on stinging nettle today and discover all that this amazing plant has to offer!


The Outdoor Apothecary website is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. The information provided is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. While we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, it is the reader’s responsibility to ensure proper plant identification and usage.

Please be aware that some plants are poisonous or can have serious adverse health effects. We are not health professionals, medical doctors, or nutritionists. It is essential to consult with qualified professionals for verification of nutritional information, health benefits, and any potential risks associated with edible and medicinal plants mentioned on this website.

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