Mar 22 2012

Stinging Nettles

Posted by     42 Comments    Posted under: Kitchen


Nettles get a bad rap around here. I am not sure why.

I know they have those hairy hypodermic needle-like bristles that emit a formic acid, which, on bare flesh, causes a sting that can last from a few minutes to 24 hours, (baking soda will neutralize the acid if you get stung), but I do not think that is a good enough reason to steer clear of them.

They are more than plentiful for eight or nine months of the year and they are free. They literally grow along the side of the road. March is the season when they start to surge and you will notice their glossy green heads everywhere you go around these parts. Although I could pick them off the side of the road there is no need. They favour the surrounds of the Chefs polytunnel,  so I had one of the kids rescue me a batch before they left for school this morning.

When I got back from the school run I noticed a small enamel pot outside my front door with a note taped to it. The note read ‘On loan only. Please return when you are finished‘. Filled to the brim with rich yellow cream it was. I am guessing my friendly farmer meant I had to return the pot as soon as I was finished, but taking his message literally, I set about to return the cream to him in a more edible fashion.

Little stingers


If you still need a bit of convincing as to why you should be eating (or drinking) more nettles then take a peek at the nutritional value of nettles so you can make a more informed decision for yourself. And if it is the stingers that are keeping you away wear gloves and use a kitchen tongs and scissors.

I always soak mine in a bit of salted water incase there are any uninvited bugs hanging around.

Beautiful Butter

With all that cream the best thing to do is come up with a way to preserve it. We only use real butter here at chez Wise. No schwag stuff. Receiving a few gallons of fresh dairy cream as a gift gave me the opportunity to make a few pounds of butter that we can keep in the freezer for a few months, or share with friends. If you have never made butter then you are in for a surprise. It is dead easy. Pour cream into the food mixer – using the paddle attachment – and turn it on high until the butter forms. Depending how much cream you have in there it might take ten minutes or longer. When we returned home to Ireland several years ago it took forever to convince the Chef that Kerrygold did NOT add yellow food coloring to their butter. He has still never come across cream with such color. Grass fed = happy cows = beautiful butter.

Food Art at its finest   


Once your butter has formed into what might look like very yellow cottage cheese curds, line up a strainer with cheese cloth and a bowl underneath. Pour it all into the cheesecloth strainer and save the buttermilk. This makes a thoughtful gift for a friend that loves to bake. It is very low-in-acid tasting but makes fabulous baked goods.

Buttermilk . . fresh and fabulous   

Now that you have butter all lined up and ready to go you can decide what you want to do with it. I like old fashioned salted country butter so I made one batch with salt – for me. I also made one batch with bacon because the kids love bacon butter on their baked potatoes. What is not to love. …. mmmm bacon.  And the final batch was a combo of salt and stinging nettle.

Essential Ingredients

I dropped the nettles into a pot of (already boiling) ham that is slowcooking for supper later. The nettles sting is stifled the minute it hits the water. As soon as it comes out, shred it with your chopping knife, stems and all.

Steam the sting right out of the nettles

After you have your nettles shredded and your bacon obliterated, then divide your butter into three separate portions and start mixing. I think doing this with your hands is just fine. A lot of butter making folks use the fancy paddles and ice cold water baths etc. but all of that takes time and is, in my opinion, not necessary at all.

The butter will take any form you like and freezes for months. No need to feel bad that you do not have a friendly farmer dropping (illegal) milk or cream on your doorstop. This works just fine with any old shop cream. I expect, were you to use double or heavy cream, your butter might in fact taste better than mine.

Beautiful little butters

Go foraging with friends for nettles and use them in many different ways. Make warm milk with infused nettle and a bit of honey for a bed time drink, add nettles to your bowl of buttered mashed potatoes, to your soup, to your stews. Dried nettle leaves act as a natural anti-histamine and the fresh leaves have been known to relieve pain from arthritis. In the summer infuse a large bunch with freshly squeezed lemons and make a souped up lemonade for the kids.

Oh – and one more thing – they taste great!

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Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,



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42 Comments + Add Comment

  • Butter looks amazing! Has reminded me to get a replacement thingy for my mixer so I can start making some!!!

    • The Chef just walked in with a hot loaf of sourdough and as I type I have a nice piece of warm buttery bread in my hand.
      It is fab. Yes – you should be saving your cream and making butter! I am sure there is a nettle or two to be found in your garden Margaret!

  • Those little butters look simply beautiful. And I love that you’ve found a good use for nettles! I like nettle tea but I just buy those ready-made in a tea bag in health stores 🙂

    • Why thank you kindly Aoife!
      We like the nettles around here. I dried a huge bunch of them last year but my cat got into it in the shed and ate them.
      I think they have the same qualities as catnip … Thanks for the visit.

  • Mona,
    This butter sounds (and looks) completely fabulous. Unsalted, salted, bacon(!) and nettle butter – how I want to taste them all!

    • I know… and each of them are very tasty in their own way.
      I used a few pieces of smoked bacon and think next time I might make a
      smoked salt with garlic butter….thanks for the visit!

  • Butter, butter, butter, oh how we nearly fainted when we first moved here and saw the pale white butter. Thankfully we have a great supermarket where we can buy our beloved Kerrygold. I love your trio of butters, how cute and tasty looking. We love the baked potatoes in our house, how handy to have these in the freezer.

    • Hi Brenda!
      I know. I forgot just how pale that butter is until you chimed in!
      We are having friends over for supper tonight for a ‘Build your own Burger and Baked Potato’ party
      and I am sure the butter will be all gone by the time they leave! Thanks for the visit Brenda.
      Hope you and your boys are keeping well and looking forward to the summer xx

  • wish i was eating potatoes. just thinking of the mashed potatoes and nettles we had when we were young with abig dollop of country butter all home grown, the butter is superb. im of to get the nettles. xx

    • I know. I wish you could eat them too. I wonder if mashed celeriac with nettles would cut it instead?
      I do remember the potatoes, the nettles and the butter Mum. Probably one of my earliest taste memories.
      Funny…it was never burnt. there are loads of nettles down your back field I am sure! xx

  • my favorite … Nettle Pesto

    fabulous post – thank you!!


    • Ah…Nettle Pesto! Yes. I have some toasted hazelnuts to use up and think this might make a
      fab pesto! We are having a build-a-burger party tonight and this would make a delicious topping!
      Hope you are well sweetie. Skype soon xx

  • Just enjoying the last of some ‘old fashioned ‘ butter on my toast – now I’m inspired to make my own…….. Thanks Mona!

    • Ah – Yum! My Granny used to make ‘country butter’ when I was a child and I still have never forgotten that taste, or tasted anything like it since.
      I am sure you will have no trouble at all making your own butter Yvonne. Thanks a million for popping in for a visit!

  • Hello Mona!….This butter looks absolutely superb!….Without going to all the trouble (as the cream here is not so good) you have given me an idea for making tasty butter in small amounts for freezing (using bought butter, of course).

    As for the nettles, they bring back memories of childhood…My mother used to steam them for us, but they are like spinach, you need a huge amount, as they reduce to nothing when wilted…Imagine 7 hungry children to feed!!…Lol As I live in a city, there is no hope of finding them here, alas!…I can still conjure up the taste of them and the hosts of times I got stung to the elbows (even though I had gloves)!!…

    Thanks again for the memories..


    • Hi Maureen!
      The butter is bliss. And yes – freezing it is a great idea especially if you get a surplus of cream and do not want it to go to waste.
      I have childhood memories of nettles too. Mostly painful memories from all the stinging – but a lot of very tasty edible memories too.
      They do wilt down to nothing but are delicious so worth the effort I think. Thanks for popping in for a visit Maureen and leaving a lovely comment.

  • I was only talking about nettles yesterday on twitter and remembering how my Gran used to make us eat them twice a year and I hated them they felt hairy and horrible , but have been convinced so am going to try them again as a colcannon hoping the butter onions and potatoes will hid the taste :).The butters look fab beautiful Photo’s :).

    • Hi Elaine and thanks for taking the time to comment!
      No – I think the thing is, they actually taste good. What I would do is sauté them in a little butter on the pan with a decent bit of salt and pepper (black)
      and then chop it up before adding it to the spuds. It really does taste great! Thanks for the compliment on the photos.
      Someday I hope to turn the bloody camera off ‘AUTO’ but until I figure all that out – these will have to do.
      Have a lovely weekend x

  • What a surprise for me. I did not know one could cook and eat nettles. My grand-daughter is always on the look-out for them when she visits here and we walk in the wood. She’s afraid of them and always asks if there are any *pricklies* around. Wait until I tell her about this post. I love that you made your own butter and they all look so beautifully delicious. Congratulations on a launch date…so exciting Mona.

    • Oh they are very edible and drinkable too. I know – a lot of people really do steer clear of them because of the stinging factor
      and it is a shame. They are filled with a robust flavour and packed with nutrients. I even throw the frozen ones into smoothies for the kids.
      Shaping up to be a lovely weekend here and thanks Paula – getting very excited indeed about the book.

  • It does look yum, I’ve been meaning to try making butter since I made the clotted cream but still haven’t got around to it!

    • I know…you have all the cream at your disposal too!
      Do you ever make anything from the goats cream? Is there a nice thick layer of cream on goats milk?
      I was thinking of you and Meghan all day wondering if there are any kids yet. Hope all goes ok xx

  • Very inspirational, Móna, and with the words “The nettles’ sting is stifled the minute it hits the water” you have answered a question that I realise now has been troubling me all my adult life but never thought to ask. I shall get my pot of nettle fudge boiling this instant.

    I too make my own butter when I have a moment, and the feelgood factor associated is immense.

    • Hi Mise,
      I think you are not alone with your question. A lot of people stay away from the
      Nettles because of the stinging sensation. I find, that when blanched lightly there is still
      a slight sting to them and it makes the tips of my fingers tingle as I chop them up.
      One of those pleasant pains I guess. Nothing to put me off from the task at hand.
      Off to a Goat farm in County Clare today to learn a bit more about cheese making…
      Hope the lovely sun travels with us down the coast.

  • You had me at bacon! And I love your list of ideas of what to do with nettles too. 🙂 If you make lemonade from them, can you taste them at all?

    • Ha ha ha – I know. Bacon Butter is a very old favorite of all the Americans :0)
      I use the juicer for the lemonade Kristen and have always thrown in Spinach etc. into juices for them
      so they are used to things looking ‘green’ and no, there is not much taste either. I assume you would use sugar in your lemonade, right?
      Thanks for the visit! I am just after getting the FIRST .pdf copy of ‘da book’ so I am going to bury my head in it now for a few hours xxx

  • This entire post fascinated me. I love that you make butter. I love that you make bacon (lovely lovely bacon) butter. I love that farmers leave you treats. I love that you reply to comments while munching on hot buttered sourdough. I want to be your neighbor.

    • Hi Kale!
      We have very nice neighbours indeed and I think you would make a sweet addition to the hood!
      The butter and the nettles are a great combo. Had a bit of nettle butter lastnight with
      smoked potatoes and BBQ brisket. It was exceptionally good. And yes, I try to respond to all the comments.
      It is my way of having a little chat with my readers xx

  • For some weird reason I always thought making butter would involve more then just whipping. But then again, we all know what happens when we overwhip the cream to I should have thought about that a bit more. I love the idea of making my own and am soooo gonna do that!
    As for the stinging nettles; I have plenty in my garden to make anything I want so maybe I should start using them instead of just removing them and tossing them in the bin. Thanks for all the tips Mona!

    • Simone,
      The nettles really have a great flavour especially if you catch the younger ones.
      I am sure you will do a fine job of the butter you make.
      Can’t wait to read all about it and drool over the photos of your new kitchen!
      Glad you are back to blogging after your kitchen construction break. I missed you x

  • This is so fabulous. Never realised I could make butter using my food processor. This is going on my to do list. Thanks!

    • Great stuff Catherine. Let me know how it turns out!
      Thanks for popping in for a vist and leaving a comment too.

  • Hello! Thanks for the inspiration – lots of young nettles are just springing up in my (sadly neglected!) Scottish Borders garden. Off to do some careful picking! I’ve also always wanted to make butter, but somehow any cream we have in the house never makes it that far. Yours looks fantastic – definitely on my to do list. Thanks again x

    • The nettle butter is just fab. They are especially delicious when young and tender. We just made a nettle and celeriac gratin for supper and it is just so tasty. I believe they are high in iron too so all the better for you!

  • […] can expect some of them to stick around! Apparently we’ll need to plant butterfly bushes and nettles (not quite sure how I’m going to get those into a window box). Or you can flock to the […]

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  • Those butters are simply beautiful. Your pictures make me hungry. I should try this soon.

    • Hi there Jessica,

      Thanks so much. They are all delicious and so easy to make.
      Do try the recipe. It is easy!

  • Hi, does anyone know where I can buy fresh or frozen nettle from here in America? Your help is appreciated.

    • Hi Anna,

      I would suggest you look in the health food shops. I know you can get it as a dried herb in some places but fresh/frozen in the US – I am not sure to be honest.
      It is a weed here .. a delicious one!

  • […] because I know many of you daydream about making your own cheese all the time. I’ve made my own butter – that was just as easy. I even made flavoured butters. One with Nettles, and even a bacon […]

  • […] can expect some of them to stay put! Apparently we’ll need to plant butterfly bushes and nettles (not quite sure how I’m going to get those into a window box). Or you can flock to the […]

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About Móna
I am a native Galway girl that seems to be drawn to professions that rhyme with 'err'. Writer, Mother, Restauranteur, Wedding Planner, Dishwasher, Grass cutter, Cocktail maker. I suppose you could say I am a well rounded entrepreneur.
You can find me here
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