New York, NY—I love a warm cup of verdant stinging nettles tea, especially on a cold winter’s day. The plant is difficult to find in NYC though, because it loves a really wet climate (hint: it’s usually found near water). I usually forage for stinging or common nettles in England, where it grows rampantly in ditches and along hedgerows throughout the spring and summer. (Although some intrepid foragers can pick them bare-handed, I bring along some gloves to avoid the stinging burn.) A small camper park near my mother-in-law’s home has some great-tasting nettles, and I drink a tea infusion from the leaves nearly every day while we’re there. It’s my brew of choice for tea time, and great with scones and clotted cream.
Urtica dioica is widely considered a nutritive plant by herbalists in the U.K., as well as in the U.S. There’s an old English saying that goes, “Three nettles in May keeps all diseases away.” The plant is so ubiquitous throughout the countryside that Nicholas Culpepper wrote, “Nettles are so well known that they need no description; they may be found, by feeling, in the darkest night.”
The best way of preparing the brew is to let it sit for several hours or overnight. The infusion will turn dark, inky green but will have a mildly sweet, almost milky flavor.
Wild Stinging Nettles Tea
1 pint mason jar with lid
1/8 oz or 3 T wild dried nettles
1 pint boiling water
While the water is coming to a boil, place the dried nettles in the jar. Pour boiling water over the top of the plant until it reaches about an inch to the top. Cover with lid.
For maximum nutritive benefits, allow your infusion to steep for several hours—or at the very least for half an hour. Enjoy!