The leaves and stems of stinging nettles are rich in iron, potassium, manganese, calcium, iodine, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and the B-complex vitamins, and have long been used in northern climes to improve vitality. The Gaelic saint Columba favored nettle broth during his sojourn on Iona. Four centuries later and half a world away, the great Tibetan yogi Milarepa acquired a greenish complexion from years of subsisting entirely on nettle soup while meditating in a cave.
Nettles pop up in the same places year after year and are harvested in early spring (wear gloves!), well before they flower. Use them instead of (or in addition to) spinach, kale, mustard greens, or chard in any of your favorite recipes. Or steam and serve them as a side dish with a little butter and Parmesan cheese. Nettles lose their sting when cooked but their color deepens to an astonishing shade of green that’s particularly welcome after a long winter.