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Edible Edible Autumn Autumn Spring Spring Summer Summer Winter Winter

A very abundant and under used superfood that is very easy to identify if a little painful to collect without gloves.

Hedgerow Type
Common Names Nettle, Burn Hazel, Stinging Nettle
Scientific Name Urtica dioica
Season Start Jan
Season End Dec
Please note that each and every hedgerow item you come across may vary in appearance to these photos.


Green, arrow shaped with very serrated edges, the underneath covered in small stinging hairs with some on top. Growing in pairs on opposite sides of the stalk.

Male Flowers

The males flowers are tiny and round, varying in colour from green to yellow or purple, these open out into four white anthers in a cross shape. The male flowers don’t generally droop downwards and are a bit more upright compared with the female flowers.

Female Flowers

The female flowers are similar but they have many tiny spike like stigmas emitting from the centre and the ‘strings’ of flowers will usually droop right down.


The seeds are left from the female flowers and are green and triangular.


Tough erect stems. Very fibrous and covered in small stinging hairs. Green to red/purple.


Everywhere. Particularly abundant on waste ground, hedgerows, woods and cultivated land.

Possible Confusion

Only Dead Nettles from the Lamium family which are edible and although not as tasty they don’t sting. Pictured.


Slightly like spinach when cooked similarly but has a flavour of its own.


Very common.


Only young nettles or bright green tops of larger plants are usable for cooking unless flaming over a fire when more of the nettle can be used. It is not wise to eat nettles when flowering between June and October as they have a laxative effect and the plant will then contain cystolith crystals that can upset the urinary tract. The fresh growth from nettles that grow after being cut back is fine though.
Wear gloves when collecting or ‘Grasp it like a man of mettle’!

Medicinal Uses

Tender handed stroke a nettle, It’ll sting you for your pains, Grasp it like a man of mettle, And it soft as silk remains’. If you do get stung try rubbing the old favorite dock leaves on the inflamed area, it works but only really psycologically, much better and much more effective is to use the juice from Greater or Ribwort Plantain.
Nettles have long been of use to man for food, cordage and medicine. They grow in many environments but like fertile soil rich in phosphates and make good manure when rotted down.
Nettles and their extracts have long been used for easing the pain from rheumatism and arthritis and they also help clear dandruff.

Other Facts

Nettles have a fairly neutral taste and the tops can be added to many dishes without affecting the flavour for the health benefits.


19 comments for Nettle

  1. Hazel J says:

    Nettle pesto is tasty. Boil the nettle tops for a few minutes and then whizz with olive oil, garlic, grated Parmesan or other hard Italian cheese – salt to taste. Pine nuts or other nuts can also be added. Eat with pasta in the traditional way.

  2. Pop says:

    Put nettle plants in your waterbutt in summer allow a couple of weeks to active but if you need to water still use your waterbutt.

  3. Francine says:

    if I understand correctly if I waited too long and my nettle is in flower I can cut them and maybe use them as food for my garden but it is not wise to eat it after it has flowered. But if I cut them short and they grow back can I cut them then and eat them, on their second growth or do I have to wait until next year. I mostly want to dry them and use as tea. Also wanted to make a hair rinse for strength

    Thank you

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      The new growth after cutting back the nettles to ground level is safe to consume and if used for a hair rinse they can be used in flower.

      1. Passiflora says:

        Can the Nettle leaves, once flowered, be dried and used for tea? Or is fresh growth best for tea also?

        1. Eric Biggane says:

          I can only find articles saying not to use for tea after flowering but nettles in flower can be cut down to ground level and will usually be replaced with new shoots within a week or so.

  4. Kimberley Frezel says:

    Hi, Is is late November, and I have seen lots of new nettle growth in the woods near me. I know it is winter/autumn, but they have not flowered and I have harvested the young leaves as is said to. Is this okay?I know a lot of books/website say spring for nettles but they do seem to grow all year round and seem so young and healthy at the moment , especially after a night of rain 🙂 Just wanted clarification on this really… thanks! 🙂

  5. Kenny says:

    I found one article that says if you pick the leaf after flowering, that drying the leaf will destroy the cystoliths and can then be used in a tea. True or false. Any comments on this?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      I’m afraid I don’t know, does anybody have any info?

  6. Olga says:

    Nettle can be used in a soup as a pretty much main vegetable ingredient apart from potatoes. I am from Ukraine, and I remember being a kid I loved this dish in spring (called green borsh). Because it’s usually being cooked just once or twice per year in spring around Easter, so it always felt quite long awaited after the winter. If you wanna give it a try, here is a recipe: https://ukrainefood.info/recipes/soups/15-green-borsht
    Often also cooked with sorrel but I prefer the taste and a specific feel of cooked nettle when you chew it. And the more nettle you put there the better it will be! Don’t be shy! It is a simple, easy and very healthy dish. And you can cook it in a volume for several meals which saves a lot of time for several days ahead.
    Eric, you usually have recipes like salads and pan fried stuff. Try this one and the sorrel version too 🙂 Could be a nice diversity addition to your recipes collection.

  7. Jim Butcher says:

    My daughter and mum had cystitis type of urinary problem and thought to be the stinging nettles but I didn’t have any problems we use them from July practice till October 20

  8. Lorraine Higgins says:

    Hi can I dehydrate the seeds and store them in jars or is it better to let them dry out naturally rather than using a dehydrator

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      Either will work well.

  9. Wolina Essen says:

    Does anybody know how many oxalates are in nettles? I have read that they are low in oxalates and that they are very high. I can’t eat the latter. Thanks! And if you could list your source that would be great.

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      I’m afraid that I am also finding conflicting information although being into foraging all my life, I have never heard of oxalates being a problem in nettles unlike other plants like sorrel and dock that are known to be high in oxalates. The best source I have found is http://www.eatthatweed.com/oxalic-acid/.
      It appears that cooking does not destroy all the oxalates but the water soluble ones, which are the harmful oxalates. The rest are non soluble oxalates which will pass straight through without causing any harm. I hope this helps.

  10. Natalie Park says:

    if I’ve picked nettles now when they have tiny bud like flowers are they still ok to make tea

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      It is best to make tea with nettles that haven’t flowered, just chop back your nettles to the ground and new nettles will start appearing very quickly or wait until the seeds have formed and collect them as a healthy addition to salads or other foods.

  11. Curiosity says:

    I am curious about the cystolith crystals in flowering nettle. I live in a hot, dry climate where nettles (and many other naturalized plants) seem to flower almost as soon as they sprout. Does anyone have one or more original sources that can provide more information about this? I see it mentioned on a lot of web pages, but I can’t seem to locate any firsthand sources? Thank you for your help!

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      We have had this query before and I couldn’t find a scientific report on it. I was told this info by my Grandad and Mother and have read it in many places but nothing solid. Some of the foragers I know ignore this and eat nettles after they have flowered, sticking to the top few leaves, it is said the cystoliths form in older leaves. I have never heard of anybody suffering from eating nettles after they flower but I personally find it hard to ignore things I was taught many years ago.

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