What to do after the harvest
The first thing to do is de-stem them. If using soon, store the leaves in the fridge 3-4 days, and rinse with cold water before using. To save them for later, you have a few options:
- Rinse and spread out to dry, then store in glass jars (they may still sting)
- Rinse and process in a blender, then freeze in food containers. (Blending removes the sting, and is the method to use to consume nettles raw, for instance in a pesto or smoothie.)
Another option, whether you’re going to use them immediately or freeze them, is to blanch them before anything else. This removes the sting and you can then de-stem more easily:
- Drop your harvest into a pot of boiling water for 2 minutes, till limp. The water can be salted (in this case save it to use as stock), or not (in this case you can directly drink it as tea).
- Drain the leaves thoroughly, squeezing out excess liquid, over a bowl.
- Remove stems and chop the leaves roughly.
- Use right away or freeze in food containers.
The seeds can be eaten fresh; that’s when they have the strongest stimulating effect, so avoid before bedtime (conversely, they are a great snack while on the trail). To preserve them, they can be frozen or pickled, but in my opinion the most practical way of preserving a large stock of seeds is to dry them:
- Spread out the clusters and they will dry out in a few days.
- Separate the seeds from the stems by rubbing them between the hands, or through a coarse-mesh sieve.
- Store in a glass jar.
- Take up to 1tsp a day mixed in with your morning yogurt, porridge or other breakfast (this makes them more palatable than taking a spoonful directly, at least to me!)
A few recipes:
- Nettles can be used in place of spinach in any cooked dish that calls for the latter. Add the leaves to soups and stews for added nutrition.
- Nässelsoppa (Swedish nettle soup)
- (more to come)
- Ripe fruit packed with nettle leaves keeps fresh longer as mould formation is stifled.
- The leaves have a high nitrogen content: add them to your compost heap to boost the bacteria that break down the material.
- For the same reason, they make an excellent fertiliser: Fill a bucket with nettles (the whole plant can be used) and cover with water. Leave out for a week or so. The resulting dark (and stinking) liquid is rich in nitrogen: dilute 1 part to 10 parts water to use as plant feed.