The word “nettle” describes over forty different flowering plant species from the Urtica genus - appropriately named after the Latin word “uro,” which means “I burn.” While not all nettle plants have poisonous barbs, the most well-known form of has stingers on its leaves and in its name.

The stinging nettle is native to Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America. It is distributed in all of the United States (except for Hawaii) as well as in Canada and parts of Mexico, and often shows up often at farmers markets during the winter, spring, summer months.

Nettles have long been used as a medicinal herb, treating arthritis, anemia, hay fever, and kidney problems. As a food, stinging nettles are also used as a substitute for more common greens (like spinach) in polenta, pestos, and soups as they have a similar, somewhat richer flavor. While soaking the nettles in water and cooking the plant will remove its characteristic chemicals, it is advised to use thick work gloves when picking nettles and de-thorning the leaves. Dried nettles are also quite popular in tea and can be found as a flavoring agent in some forms of cheese, such as Yarg and Gouda.

In Season

January, February, March, April, May, June, July

Recipes with Nettles

Nettle Pesto

Kimberley Hasselbrink, The Year in Food

Stinging Nettle Soup

Kristin Kimball, author of The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food and Love (Scribner, 2010)

Dungeness Crab and Wild Nettle Frittata

From Annette Yang and Brian Leitner of Nettie’s Crab Shack.

Nettles, Green Garlic, and Potato Soup

Knoll Farms

Articles about Nettles

July 25, 2014

The Great Tomato Debate

Confused by terms like heirloom, open-pollinated, hybrid, and GMO? We’ll help you sort them out.

July 18, 2014

Meet Marcy

CUESA is excited to welcome our new executive director, Marcy Coburn! Find out what inspires her work.

July 11, 2014

Farm Tripping

Summer is prime time for agritourism. Here’s our list of local U-picks, tours, and other farm fun.

July 09, 2014

A Fond Farewell from Critical Edge Knife Sharpening

Bob Kattenburg retires after 19 years as the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market’s knife sharpener.

July 04, 2014

On the Farm at Marin Roots

Take a behind-the-scenes look at organic veggie growing with the young farmers at Marin Roots Farm.


CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) is dedicated to cultivating a sustainable food system through the operation of the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and its educational programs. Learn More »