By brittalippiatt, May 2 2018 09:30PM
Until recently, stinging nettles have only brought very limited to joy to my life and only in so far as to knowing that they are food plant to some butterfly larvae and generally great for wildlife (which is why people are encouraged to leave some patches of nettles in a corner of their garden). Just reading up on www.nettles.org. uk (yes, this exists; they even promote a 'be nice to nettles week') there are in fact about 40 insect species dependent on stinging nettles which I find astounding.
However, finding a use for a plant in my experience totally changes how you look at it which was again confirmed with this one. Stinging nettle crisps are one of the Forest School things that are quite popular among practitioners, so I thought we give it a go in our Woodland Explorers home ed group; we always have a fire going there and have done quite a bit cooking over the winter to keep us all warm, so it is the perfect place for trying some more adventurous things. Literally no one expected much of the nettles, but how wrong we were! Stinging nettle crisps are delicious! And so easy to make - here is how:
Collect the uppermost, freshest stinging nettle leaves. Be sure to take them from a place away from dog wee spots (yikes). Gloves are of course advisable to avoid the needle-like hairs on the leaves and stems that can give you a nasty rash. If you feel very brave, there is a way to pick them barehanded without being stung, although there is no guarantee for that! I grab them just under the first four leaves with a determined, slightly upward motion and so far have been lucky with this (I have probably just jinxed it!).
Once you got your nettles, heat up some oil. When it is really hot, chuck the nettles in and turn them until they are slightly crunchy and crinkle up - it will only take a couple of minutes. Take them out and drain them well on some kitchen paper. Sprinkle a bit of salt on top if you like, and enjoy!
Stinging nettles can of course be turned into a lot of other things and, apparently, they are really healthy, too, containing vitamin C and lots of iron. There is nettle soup, nettle pesto, nettle beer, among others, and the stems can be made into durable natural string. And all this from a plant that is usually just considered a weed and a health hazard.
P.S.: Please note that you should not use stinging nettles once the flower has started to develop; they then contain tiny pieces of calcium carbonate which can be absorbed by the body and cause kidney problems.
I’ve long been drinking them in soup as a blood tonic but never thought about frying them. I’m going to give it a go...thanks Britta!