Nettle Tortillas

By Jess Starwood

Stinging nettle is a common and widespread plant that grows prolifically in the springtime. It’s tiny hairs that cover its stems and leaves deliver an injection of formic acid when touched—the same chemical responsible for the pain of an ant bite. But don’t let this deter you from using this tasty and incredibly nutritious and medicinal wild plant. Nettle is revered for its high levels of amino acids, protein, flavonoids, and bone-building minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and zinc—more than kale or spinach. Nettle also is known as an excellent source of vitamin K.

Nettle adds a bright and slightly earthy but savory flavor to foods. Other than tortillas, it can be added to soups, smoothies, sautéed as a cooked green, or baked into savory (or even sweet!) breads and treats. It is also used as a medicinal tea for its antibacterial, antifungal, astringent, and anti-inflammation properties.

Stinging nettle tortillas

Nettle Tortillas Recipe

2 cups lightly packed nettle greens
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup masa harina
Pinch of sea salt

Collect and handle stinging nettle with gloves. Prepare a bowl filled with water and ice cubes. Bring a pot of water to boil and blanch the nettle greens for 30-60 seconds. Remove nettle with tongs and add immediately into the ice water to preserve the vibrant green color. The heat denatures the needle-like stingers and can be handled with bare hands after they have cooled.

Add the nettle and water to a high speed blender and blend until completely liquified.

Combine the masa harina with the water and 1 cup of the blended nettle and water in a mixing bowl. Mix and knead thoroughly with your hands until all the flour has been moistened, about two minutes. If the dough seems too dry or too wet, add more water or flour. Divide the dough evenly into pieces the size of a golf ball, rolling it between your palms to create a sphere.

Using a tortilla press or two pieces of wood lined with parchment or plastic (while not an ideal material to use, it is helpful to keep the dough from sticking and tearing from your press surface), place the ball of dough between the two sides and press firmly.

Once formed, gently place the tortilla on a preheated cast iron skillet, comal, or other flat cooking surface. Cook for about 20-30 seconds on each side, and repeat with the remaining dough.

Fill your warm nettle tortilla with a variety of wild spring greens, wild mushrooms and other foraged finds of the season. Pair with a prickly pear cactus margarita for a fully wild fiesta.

Chanterelle mushroom and spring greens in a nettle tortilla

Originally published in Edible Ojai & Ventura County, Spring 2023.

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About Jess

Jess Starwood

Jess Starwood is an established author, chef, herbalist and educator. She holds a Masters of Science degree in Herbal Medicine and Holistic Nutrition. In 2021, she wrote and photographed her first book, Mushroom Wanderland: A Forager’s Guide to Finding, Identifying and Using More Than 25 Wild Fungi.

She also writes regularly for Edible Ojai & Ventura County, Edible San Fernando magazines and The Mycophile—the publication of the North American Mycological Association (NAMA).

Jess founded The Wild Path School where she teaches foraging, wild foods, herbalism and nature education classes for adults and children. She is a member of the Culinary Committee for NAMA and is on the board of directors for the Arizona Mushroom Society and the newsletter editor for the Los Angeles Mycological Society. She has also worked as a wild food consultant and forager for Michelin starred chefs Niki Nakayama and Aitor Zabala. Jess has been featured in National Geographic, The Guardian, and the Orange County Register.

Classes and workshops for adults and children are held regularly in the Greater Los Angeles area and west coast. Weekend and week-long wild food adventures are also occasionally available. Be sure to check out the event calendar or join the mailing list to be notified first of openings and availability.