Ella and Stinging Nettles

Early summer has arrived and Finland is so lush and green.  It is amazing how green it is and if you thought everything was “bigger in Texas” you are wrong!  The plants and flowers are huge, but we’ll save that for another post.  This post is about Ella and Stinging Nettles (urtica dioica) or in Finnish Nokkonen.

To Ella this Nokkonen is just an evil plant, but it is actually rich in vitamins (A, C, E,K, B1, B2, B3 and folic acid), calcium, potassium, manganese, iron, zinc and lots of antioxidants.  I’ve been told that it has a flavor like spinach.  Ella’s experience with this “evil plant” involves the wonderful walking and biking paths throughout Espoo and Finland.  Both girls enjoy picking wildflowers and Ella learned that mixed in with these beautiful flowers are these evil green plants that sting you and it lasts quite awhile.  Another incident was crashing on her bike into the stinging nettle.  I knew instantly what it was and what it feels like to have touched the plant.  Thanks to my Delaware Nature Center days with field trips as a kid and summer camps.  I think a comparison would be like a jellyfish sting.  The stinging nettle plant has many hollow stinging hairs called trichomes on its leaves and stems, which act like hypodermic needles, injecting histamine  and other chemicals that produce a stinging sensation when contacted by humans and other animals.

I couldn’t quite remember how to treat it, but always remembered with jellyfish you could scrape it with a credit card and it seemed to help.  I quickly learned from reading that this is NOT the way to treat stinging nettle.  It actually makes it worse.  Sorry sweet Ella!  What we did is similar to what you can do with a bee sting.  You take baking soda and water and make it into a paste and spread that onto the area.  Ella seemed to think it helped.  She has learned to stay away from the plant and she knows exactly what it looks like.  I guess someday she will tell her kids that she knows what nokkonen is from her days living in Finland.

Below I found a fun blog that included some recipes using Nokkonen (Stinking Nettle).  The young leaves can make a tasty soup and can be dried for later use.  We might have to remember this next year.


300 g boiled stinging nettle (if you cannot find, use frozen spinach instead)
1 onion
50 g butter
4-5 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 litre milk
2 teaspoons salt
pinch of sugar
pinch of black pepper

Bring a large pot of water and 2 teaspoons of sea salt to a boil. Drop in the stinging nettles and cook for 2 minutes, until they are softened. Drain and rinse with cold water. Chop coarsely.

Peal and chop the onion, melt the butter in a saucepan, stir in the onion. Cook until the onion is translucent and softened. Pour in the milk, constantly stirring. Bring to boil, add the stinging nettle, then reduce the heat to medium.

Season with sea salt and black pepper. Serve with hard boiled eggs.

Categories: Finland Life | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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