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Celebrating nettle season in Seattle

Those stinging suckers make for a tasty dish.

A bush full of stinging nettles

Handle with care if you see wild nettles in your area and check with authorities before picking.

Photo by Niall Dunne

It may not feel like it yet, but spring has arrived. Don’t believe us? Just look around at all of the growing leafy, spiky, and surprisingly delicious weeds known as the stinging nettle. *Swoon*

You’ll see nettle dishes at local restaurants and painful-looking hives on folks who try to forage them without proper equipment (they’re called “stinging” for a reason). But if you’re still not quite familiar with the mean, green wonder, let us introduce you.

What’s with the hype?

Don’t let those nettle ouchies turn you off. The herbaceous, edible plant — which has a spinach-like taste — is good for you, chock full of Vitamin K, calcium, fiber, and other nutrients.

Local Tulalip tribes harvest them for medicinal value, and Coast Salish weavers have used them for textiles.

You can pick them yourself

Nettles love the woods and moist soil — and we got those covered. They appeal to beginning foragers, since they’re easy to track down and often growing on the side of trails. They grow year-round, but taste best when harvested early in the spring before they get tough.

Keep an eye out on your next hike, but like any foraging expedition, it’s always best to consult a knowledgeable guide, check local regulations, and never eat anything you’re unsure about. And wear thick gloves.

Nettle soup topped with an over-easy egg and crispy pork jowl

Nettle soup is a common spring dish at restaurants that use seasonal ingredients like Off Alley.

Photo by SEAtoday staff

Or let someone else do the work

Seattle farmers markets sell nettles for ~$7 per pound. Pick some up and blend them in a pesto at home or simply saute them in a pan with a little salt and garlic. Be sure to blanch and boil them first to remove the sting.

If you’d rather leave the cooking to the pros, check out:

  • Off Alley | The small, Columbia City eatery often finds creative uses for the plant.
  • Eden Hill | One tasty cocktail in the Queen Anne restaurant has nettle kombucha syrup.
  • Marmite | Chophouse Row’s homestyle French spot counts wild nettle soup as its “lucky dish.”
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