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Did you know that nettle is ideal for colouring?

Every green plant contains chlorophyll, that is a pigment which helps plants create their own food through photosynthesis. Although microscopic in size, it plays a big role in the health of the planet. Just remember that most life on Earth depends on photosynthesis!

Its name is derived from the Greek words χλωρός, khloros “pale green” and φύλλον, phyllon “leaf”. As a natural green pigment, chlorophyll is a great natural colorant for use in natural products. Chlorophyll molecules are not water-soluble and in plant cells they are bound with proteins. 

Nettle is a commercial source of chlorophyll and chlorophyllin used as colorants in foods, cosmetics and medicines. It is important to use edible herb species from organic growth to avoid risk of poisoning by toxic plants or pollutants.

The highest chlorophyll content parts of nettle is the fully developed leaves from the middle section of the plant, at the very beginning of flowering. Nettle plants that are two years old or more contain higher levels of chlorophyll and carotenoids than younger plants. Plants grown in semi-shade contain more chlorophyll than the ones grown in full sun. 

Extraction of pure chlorophyll is only possible in the laboratory by organic solvents and a series of other chemicals. Organic solvents are used to break the chlorophyll-protein bond and dissolve chlorophyll. Later, the chlorophyll solution is treated by other chemicals for purification, extraction and stabilization, and the solvents are removed. Often, chlorophyll extract is combined with a carrier like maltodextrin to create flowable, water-soluble powder which is used as cosmetic ingredients (soap, shampoo). 

Chlorophyll is a food additive – E140 – approved by the European Union, commercially extracted from nettles, grass and alfalfa. This green coloring is water-soluble, though its intensity may fade with time.

Chlorophyll structure is similar to human hemoglobin and for this reason it is also known as “vegetal blood“. Like hemoglobin, chlorophyll is made up of a set of molecules grouped around a single metal atom: in hemoglobin this atom is iron (Fe), in chlorophyll it is Magnesium (Mg). Magnesium is essential for over 300 biological body functions.

Modern research on chlorophyll indicates that it has some detoxifying, anti-carcinogenic properties and may ameliorate the side effects of some drugs.

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Nettle Pie Recipe

A non-ordinary ingredient in a pie recipe is stinging nettle. Fortunately, a creative cook can make a pie from everything that is found in the backyard. Let’s see how to make a Nettle Pie!


Pie dough:

  •     500 g flour
  •     300 ml warm water
  •     25 g fresh yeast or 7 g dry yeast
  •     1 tsp. sugar
  •     1 tsp. salt


  •     2 bunches of fresh stinging nettle leaves or 2 cups of dried nettle soaked in water for a few hours then strained
  •     3 spring onions
  •     1 bunch of fresh thyme or 2 tbsp. dried herb
  •     2 tbsp. olive oil
  •     1 cup plain yogurt
  •     Zest of one lemon
  •     Butter for topping
  •     Salt as needed


Step 1

In a small mixing boil add the warm water, sugar and dissolve the yeast. Let it rest for about 5 minutes.

Step 2

Sift the flour and make a well in the center. Add the salt and then pour over the yeast mixture. Knead the dough until smooth and elastic, then cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let it proof until doubled in size.

Step 3

In a large pan, drizzle with olive oil and fry the onions and thyme until softened. Add the nettles, cover and let it cook for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and add the yogurt. Mix well and set aside to cool.

Step 4

Preheat the oven to 250ºC. Divide the dough in 2 parts and roll it thin at the size of a large round baking tray. Grease the tray and place one of the rolled dough. Pour over the filling and grate the lemon zest on top. Cover with the remaining dough and fold the sides. 

Step 5

Chop some butter on top and bake it for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Turn off the heat, sprinkle the pie with some water and cover it with a tablecloth for some minutes.

Serve the pie with plain yogurt and a nice salad. Enjoy!

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Why Does the Nettle Bite?

Most people label nettle as an unfriendly plant that grows everywhere and bites you like an “electric weed”. As the English says “stinging nettle stings”.

Common nettle or stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) belongs to the genus Urtica. The latin name derived from “uro” or “urere”, to burn, referring to the burning properties of the fluid it contains. The ability to sting is due to the fine hair-like structures covering the stems and leaves of the plant. Nettle is well armed by these hollow hairs and their swollen base contain a cocktail of chemicals, such as serotonin, histamine, folic acid, acetylcholine, moroidin, leukotrienes and formic acid. These hairs are very brittle and break easily. It’s an important adaptation for the plant to deter nibbling predators and humans also. Without these painful stings, everyone would eat poor nettle.

Painful as are the consequences of touching a common nettle, they are far exceeded by the effects of handling some of the East Indian species. The pain extends and continues for many hours or even days. In case of the Indonesian Urtica urentissima, the burning pain lasts for a year, they call it the “devil’s leaf”. Fortunately, we grow the much kinder and well behaved nettle in Europe.

Because nettle will lose its irritant powers during cooking, the young shoots may be used for culinary purposes. Luckily, dried nettle is perfectly stinging-free too.

So, don’t let the stinging hairs scare you away from this incredible herb!

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The Anatomy of Nettle – A Little Botany

A detailed description of this familiar plant is hardly necessary. Its heart-shaped, finely toothed leaves tapering to a point, and its green flowers in long, branched clusters springing from the axils of the leaves are known to everyone. The soft, green leaves are 3 to 15 cm long and are borne oppositely on an erect, wiry, green stem.

Common nettle or stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) belongs to the genus Urtica. The latin name derived from the word “urere”, ‘to burn’, referring to the burning properties of the fluid it contains. The specific name of the plant, “dioica”, means ‘two houses’, referring to being a dioecious plant. The flowers are incomplete: the male flowers have stamens only, and the female flowers have only pistil or seed-producing organs. Usually a plant will bear either male or female flowers.

The flowers are adapted for wind-pollination. The nettle flowers from June to September. The plant reaches a height of 1 to 2 meters, dying down to the ground in winter. Its perennial yellow roots – rhizomes and runners – are creeping, so it multiplies quickly, making it difficult to get rid of.

The whole plant is covered with stinging hairs. Each sting is a very sharp, polished spine, which contains the venom, that causes irritation for a touch. The burning property of the juice is dissipated by heat, enabling the young shoots of the nettle, when boiled, to be eaten.

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Happy New Year Nettle Fans!

Because it’s a new year, a New Year’s resolution may be on your mind. Perhaps losing weight, changing your wardrobe, saving the planet, reducing your carbon footprint, living healthier? Have you ever thought about going vegan? Give it a try for a month and you will see how many good things you can accomplish with that. Everyone is different, every body works differently, you have to find what is good for YOU. No pressure, just ask your human body: “Hey, would you fancy a vegan nettle pesto as a start of 2021 Veganuary?”. If your body says yes, here is how you can satisfy its needs:

  • 1 cup dried nettles soaked in 2 cups of water
  • ½ cup parsley
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ½ tablespoon sea salt

Soak the dried nettles at room temperature overnight (or 6-8 hours). Drain excess water. Add all the ingredients, use a kitchen blender or food processor until creamy. Spread the pesto on top of toast, crackers or pasta. Enjoy!