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A fun alternative to kale!

I can't get on with kale - I know it is supposed to be good for me, offering lots of nutrients and necessary elements. However, to my mind, it tastes like dirt and I was taught (remember Mr Nicholls) it was a crop planted as cattle feed - indeed one variety is known as 'cow cabbage', so you can see my dilemma.

It does, however, have a legion of fans in Europe where you will find it in "boerenkoolstamppot" , a Dutch winter dish of curly kale and mashed potatoes, sometimes with fried bacon, and served with the smoked sausage, rookworst; in "Kohlfahrt" in northern Germany again served, with bacon and Kohlwurst ("kale sausage"); cavolo nero kale is an ingredient of the Tuscan soup ribollita; caldo verde, combines pureed potatoes, diced kale, olive oil and salt in a Portuguese soup; kale combined with mashed potato appears in Ireland as colcannon. In Scotland to be "off one's kail" is to feel too ill to eat.

Thus, a "fun alternative to kale" was a real eye-catcher, especially as it fits in with trying to eradicate a particular plant from certain areas of the garden in the coming week.

Roman soldiers are said to have brought their own nettle to the British Isles to treat their tired, painful legs on long marches in the cold and wet climate by urtification, thus stimulating the circulation. However, there seems to be no evidence for this in the archaeological record. Sounds painful and not being considered - even in week 7 of lock-down-getting-up-and going issues

It’s easy to have a love-hate relationship with stinging nettles - from my point of view, mostly hate. While they’re packed with antioxidants and vitamins, they bear a painful sting. Urtica Dioica, is native to Europe, Asia, North Africa, and Western North America, but has been also introduced into other areas of the world where they catch the unwary by seeming to leap out at you, steal your football and sting you on the bum when you bend over to fold the one out of the way that was attempting to sting you on the nose.

In fact there are many types of nettle, many of them 'dead' - no sting - but is is the the stinging nettle plant that has tiny little needle-like projections all over the leaves and stems. These “hairs” are hollow and act like mini hypodermic needles that inject a shot of formic acid, histamine, and other substances that can irritate your skin. That’s why you feel pain and/or itchiness after touching them.

Like kale, it is a healthy morsel containing vitamins A, C, D, and some of the B complex. It also has protein, calcium, iron, beta-carotene, and magnesium. It is anti-inflammatory and is thought to help with urinary tract problems. It may also helpful for diabetes and heart conditions - if only it wasn't so bloody stingy and growing in among my beloved peonys and irises! Early spring is the best time of year to harvest the nettle plants but any time you can find young plants and before they flower. Mature plants tend to be fibrous and less tasty. The excess leaves can be dried for use in herbal infusions (teas). You can also freeze them for use in soups, smoothies, and other recipes year-round - puree them first. Cooked nettles taste a bit like spinach and cooking the plant destroys its ability to sting you.

How to keep nettles from stinging you:

  • Wear gloves when foraging for stinging nettles.

  • Dehydrate the plants. Once the leaves and “needles” have wilted enough, they will no longer sting you when handling them. This is a great way to make herbal teas with nettles.

  • Boil the nettles. Once you cook the leaves in boiling water, the needles will no longer be able to hurt you. This is great for recipes that use cooked nettles, and for making fresh herbal infusions.

  • Crush the nettles. Once the needles on the nettles have been crushed, they will no longer sting you. This is great for being able to use nettles raw in smoothies and pesto

There are plenty of stinging nettle recipes - here's a couple.

Nettle Pesto


1 large bunch of fresh dandelion leaves

2 large handfuls of nettle leaves

2 oz almonds or nut of your choice

4 oz Parmesan cheese grated

4 oz Olive oil best you can find!


1. Place the greens into a pot of boiling water for a minute or so.

2. Strain into a colander in the sink and rinse with cold water.

3. Put the greens into your food processor (or blender)

4. Add the nuts and the cheese.

5. Add enough olive oil to allow the machine to do its work.

6. When the mixture forms a paste-like consistency, add the remaining olive oil.

7. Pour the mixture into a large jar or container with lid and store in the fridge

Easy Nettle Soup

Serves 4 (Vegan friendly) Ingredients: 2 cups nettle leaves 1 tbsp olive oil 1 onion medium 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped 2 cups potato - 2 medium potatoes, diced 2 tsp vegetable stock powder bouillon - check it is suitable for vegans 2 cups water 1 tbsp lemon juice Sunflower seeds to sprinkle on the served soup Method: 1. Whilst wearing gloves, prepare your nettles – remove any thick stalks and wash the

leaves well. 3 In a medium saucepan heat the olive oil, then add the chopped onion and garlic

and fry for a few minutes until translucent. 4 Add the diced potato, water and vegetable stock powder and stir. 5 Cover the pan with a lid, and let it simmer for 10 minutes. 6 Check the potato is soft, and then add the washed nettle leaves and cook for

another minute until the leaves have wilted down. 7 Finally, add the lemon juice and blend the soup until smooth. 8 Salt and pepper to taste and serve with a drizzle of extra virgin oil and a sprinkle of

Seeds Variations For a thicker soup, add an extra potato. You can also use leftover potato if you have some that’s already been cooked. Other vegetables such as leek, carrot or celery can also be added. Chop them finely and add in just after the onions and garlic and lightly fry. Some or all of the nettles can be replaced with wild garlic – just leave out the garlic cloves.

So pluck away at the stingers and feel good inside too.

Robert Macfarlane's Word of the Day is ...

"hleów-feðer -

"a sheltering wing" (Old English, literally "shelter-feather"); an arm placed in protection around another; one who keeps another safe, who stands to windward to take the gale's force, to make a lee."

ps: Avoid nettle during pregnancy, and perhaps while breastfeeding - there's a joke there somewhere!?

pps: my favourite joke at the moment - funnier because it caused some puzzlement among family who grew up with languages other than English. A priest an imam and a rabbit walk in to a blood bank.

The rabbit says, 'I think I'm a Type O'.


Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength. “ - Corrie ten Boom
"The best portion of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love." - William Wordsworth
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Karl Harvey
Karl Harvey
May 10, 2020

Here the Kale Crisp recipe. Remove the kale leaves from the stalk, wash and then cut to a smaller slice. Spread in a baking tin and drizzle oil over and toss some salt in. Give the leaves a good turn to get them coated. Pop in the oven for about 10-15 minutes on about 180 or until they are nice and crisp. You can eat from the oven although we find them best some hours later.

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