There is nothing quite like fresh nettles... earthy, grounding and full of healthful benefits the leaves of this incredible plant can be used in an array of delicious recipes, from nettle pesto to nettle soup to this simple yet delightful Fresh Nettle Tea. I love the flavour of nettles on their own, but they definitely have a unique taste that some find a little hard to enjoy so you can also add other herbs like mint and fennel or citrus fruit like lemon or orange to create a brighter and more fruit forward beverage. Fresh Nettle Tea can be enjoyed as is or sweetened to taste. It is yummy served hot or poured over ice for a refreshing iced herbal tea on warmer spring days.
When and Where do Nettles Grow?
In early to mid spring, fresh stinging nettles also known as Urtica dioica pop up in the most unassuming places… under the side of an old barn, near abandoned piles of wood, around old compost bins, along the sides of country roads. When the nettles are about 8-10 inches high and perfect for the first early harvest, I get excited.
Childhood Memories and My Love for Nettles
Nettle leaf is probably my favourite herb (although it is hard to pick… no pun intended!). I have enjoyed this herb throughout my whole life. As a child, my mom was equally if not more excited about nettle season than I am now. We would have nettle soup with what my sister and I called "finger noodles" – those funny long hollow noodles you can stick on your fingers. We would then dip these in to thick green soup that was earthy, creamy, and tasted like… springtime!
Our Nettle Blends
In my teens and twenties I used nettle in various forms to help treat low iron issues. And in more recent years, it has become a key ingredient in two of our house blends at Shanti Chai & Co: Nettle & Rose Blend, a delicious balanced herbal blend of nearly equal parts nettle leaf, rose petals and raspberry leaf, and "New Momma" Blend, inspired by my early days as a new mother, made from herbs that called to me from the garden in those busy but beautiful late summer days (and daze!) along with galactagogues fenugreek and fennel, to help support lactation.
Above: fresh herbs in Shanti’s garden - Red Raspberry Leaf, Lemon Balm and Fennel (left to right).
When and How to Harvest Fresh Stinging Nettles
Back to fresh nettles. In mid-spring, at least on Vancouver Island, nettles are ready for early harvest. At this stage, they are young and so I use the whole upper portion of the nettle. [If you are harvesting, try to leave several layers of leaves on the plant as it will continue to thrive and flower this way!] Be careful when you harvest as you can, of course, get stung. I personally find I don't get stung very often and if I do I don't really mind it, so I tend to not use gloves. But of course gloves are a good precaution if you are concerned with getting some stinging nettle stings.
How Many Nettle Leaves Do I Need to Make a Pot of Nettle Tea?
For making a pot of Fresh Nettle Tea you will need 2-3 short stalks, or 10-12 leaves. For fresh herbs, you generally need about 3x more than you would of dried herbs. So for example, if you typically make a pot of nettle tea with 1 tablespoon of dried nettle leaf, use about 3 tablespoons of fresh leaves. I am not too strict with my quantities for infusions made with fresh ingredients, so I just use what looks good. If I feel like I really need the medicinal qualities, I use more and steep longer. If I just want a yummy tasting easy and quick brew, I might use less and do a quicker steep. It is all about experimenting, and it is honestly pretty hard to go wrong – the herbs and any other ingredients you might add are fresh and delicious, the brew can be served hot or iced, and you can enjoy as is or sweeten to taste!
Fresh Nettle Tea Recipe
To make Fresh Nettle Tea you will need:
- Fresh nettles (10-12 leaves)
- Other herbs like raspberry leaf, fennel, lemon balm or other mints (optional)
- Citrus slices (optional)
- A teapot, large mason jar or Bodum
- Local honey or other sweetener (optional)
Add nettles and any other fresh ingredients to teapot. Pour over with boiling water. Allow to steep for 10 minutes minimum, or anywhere up to several hours. Sweeten to taste, or drink as is. Enjoy hot or allow to cool and then pour over ice.
Tip: If you have leftovers, you can freeze in an ice cube tray for use in cold drinks or smoothies later!
Please feel free to share this with your nettle loving friends and family! And if you make a yummy batch of Fresh Nettle Tea please tag us #shantichai