Crisp and delicious, this stinging nettle cordial is refreshing poured over ice on a hot summer day. This cordial is based on an old British recipe, and is a wonderful way to enjoy the benefits of nettles!
Nettles are abundant in spring and can be found growing along the edges of meadows, woodlands, or on the banks of rivers and streams. High in vitamins A and C along with calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium, nettles are packed with nutrients and highly beneficial.
Stinging nettle cordial is made by simmering a large handful of fresh nettles with ginger, honey, and lemon to balance and sweeten the mineral taste. The cordial is left to infuse overnight or 12-24 hours before bottling.
The cordial is slightly sweet and has a rich mineral flavor characteristic of nettles. It’s delicious added to a glass of mineral water with ice on a hot day, and an easy way to enjoy the benefits of nettles.
Or add ¼ cup nettle cordial to a chilled pint of ale to make a nettle shandy!
HARVESTING STINGING NETTLES
Nettles are one of the easiest wild plants to identify and harvest because they grow in so many places. Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is a perennial plant originally native to Europe and Asia that can now be found worldwide.
The leaves, stems, and roots are edible, however the young leaves and nettle tops are preferable. Nettles must be cooked or dried before eating to avoid those stinging hairs.
Nettles have microscopic stinging hairs called trichomes on the leaves and stems. These act like tiny needles and inject histamine and other chemicals that cause a stinging sensation on contact.
TIPS FOR HARVESTING NETTLES
While nettles tend to be abundant, it’s still important to be mindful of harvesting them sustainably so they will continue to thrive. I learned to never forage more than 1/3 of any plant in an area, or 1 out of 10 plants in a patch.
- Be sure to only harvest part of the patch of nettles, so they can produce seeds.
- Cut the fresh nettles above one of the nodes.
- After cutting, allow the fresh nettles to wild slightly before handling to reduce their sting
Bring the proper tools to harvest nettles so you avoid touching them with bare skin:
- Sturdy gloves
- Thick, long pants and a tightly woven long sleeve shirt or jacket
- A pair of sharp garden scissors or snips
- A basket to hold your nettle harvest
HOW TO MAKE NETTLE CORDIAL
First you will need to harvest a large bouquet of stinging nettles. While wearing gloves, wash the nettles in cold water if needed to remove any dirt or debris. Shake off excess water.
Place the nettles in a large pot and add water to cover. Slice fresh ginger and add to the pot, then pour in raw wildflower honey. Bring the mixture to a boil, then remove from heat.
Slice the lemon and add to the pot. Cover the pot with the lid or a tightly woven cloth and let sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours.
Strain the cordial using a fine mesh sieve into a large pitcher. Pour the cordial into sanitized bottles for storage, such as flip-top bottles or recycled wine bottles. Flip-top bottles work especially well for storing cordial.
Store the cordial in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, or process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes. To serve, pour ¼ cup of cordial over a glass of ice and drink straight or add a splash of sparkling water.
- 8 oz. fresh nettles
- 1 oz. (2-inch piece) fresh ginger, sliced
- 2 cups raw wildflower honey
- 1 lemon, sliced into rounds
- 3 quarts water
- Harvest a large bouquet of fresh stinging nettles.
- Wash the nettles in cold water if needed to remove any dirt or debris. Shake off excess water.
- Place the nettles in a large pot and add water to cover.
- Slice fresh ginger and add to the pot, then pour in raw honey. Bring the mixture to a boil, then remove from heat.
- Add the sliced lemon to the pot.
- Cover the pot with a lid or tightly woven cloth and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours.
- Strain the cordial using a fine mesh sieve into a large pitcher. Pour the cordial into sanitized bottles for storage.
- Store the cordial in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, or process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.
- To serve, pour ¼ cup of cordial over a glass of ice and drink straight or add a splash of sparkling water.