Saturday, May 5, 2012

How to Pick Stinging Nettles Without Gloves

The right way to pick stinging nettles bare-handed. 
I find that it is relatively easy to pick stinging nettles without gloves.  We have lots growing on our property.  And, lucky for us, they are not terribly prickly.  However, I use the following method even on some of the stinging-est patches and find that I can pick relatively unscathed.  I don't really like to pick with gloves on.  I've never got them around when I need them.  The ones I have are bulky and cumbersome, and I can't really pick as efficiently.  There is also something satisfying to being able to touch these plants bare-handed.

Here's how I do it:

  1. Pinch the stem.  I don't know if it's because the skin on fingertips is thicker, tougher, or both.  But I find that people can put their fingertips straight down onto a nettle-stinger and not get stung.  The same is true for the skin on the palms of the hands.  So I try to pinch the stem of the nettles between my thumb and forefinger. 
  2. Come from the top.  The tenderest parts of the nettles, and the best for eating, are the top couple pairs of leaves.  Since the palms of my hands are pretty impervious to the stings, I bring my hand down over the top of a stem like an umbrella.  I used to pick coming in from the side like in the picture below.  I would get a lot more stings on the backs of my hands and fingers as they accidently came in touch with the irritating hairs. 
  3. Work in from the outside.  I usually start from the plants on the outside of a patch and work my way toward the center.  I get stung less this way because there is at least one side that I don't have to worry about getting stung from.  As the outer plants are trimmed, the inner ones become more accessible. 

The wrong way. 
The truth is that I don't think a few nettle stings are all that bad.  I do get stung when I pick bare-handed, but not very much.  Mostly it's because I pick quickly and get careless.  (I pick quickly and get careless, of course, because I don't really care.) 

Regardless of how you harvest, there are so many great reasons to enjoy this plant.  I've read about how it's a nutritional powerhouse.  Mostly I just think it is a green with incomparable taste.  Here's one reason I love it. 


  1. And nettles seem to be the greenest green available. Once steamed they seem to have a blue-green color unlike other greens-- kind of on the order of that powdered blue-green algae. I'll bet it will stain my clothes pretty damn well if I eat sloppily!

  2. I live in NZ and cannot find stinging nettles here, could somebody maybe send me some seeds please? We lived in Ireland at first and there were more than one could possibly want!

    1. Don't plant nettles in NZ as they could be an invasive weed and cause serious environmental and ecological damage!

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  4. How does one use the nettle root medicinally?