Stinging nettles have gotten a bad rap, in my opinion. True, they’ve not done much to endear themselves to hikers who get stung as they walk through undergrowth; but if you can get beyond first impressions, you’ll discover one of the power-packs of nature! Stinging nettles have been around for thousands of years, and recipes for their use have been around for probably just as long. A fast-growing herb related to the mulberry, they grow everywhere (especially well in northern climates), and the list of their benefits reads more like a “Who’s Who” of remedies, from prostrate, arthritis, blood pressure (it balances both high and low!), to iron and mineral deficiencies. The younger the leaves, the more power and goodness they still have in them, so pick the top, new leaves for the best results.
It can be eaten raw straight off the plant: “Taco”-fold the leaf by gripping it on the underside near the base of a young leaf and nipping it off with a pinch of the fingers, pop it in the mouth and chew; the juices from the leaf itself will neutralize any brief sting. Also, if you’re out on a hike and get stung by the leaves inadvertently, take a leaf as described, chew it up and rub the juices onto the sting area; it will neutralize itself. It can also be boiled for teas, soups (it boils down like spinach, so you’ll need a lot more than you think you will), or blended into a pesto, or pizza sauce; the variety of ways to eat it are endless. Once the stingers have been neutralized (their own juices released through blending, boiling, or processing in any way needed), its health benefits are unprecedented as a common plant, free to be had! Just a word to the wise: If you let it grow in your own garden, eat it as-is if you’d like; but if you harvest from a public pathway, park or forest, washing it is a good idea; where there are humans, there could be traces of herbicides, or dogs… need I say more?
Click on the image for an interesting video on the subject. When spring arrives, I’ll be looking for a fresh patch!
Here’s a recipe to get you inspired:
CREAM OF NETTLE & WATERCRESS SOUP
4 C. fresh watercress
1 C. fresh nettle leaves
4 C. of chicken stock
1 C. sour cream
1 clove garlic
Simmer the leaves in the stock until tender. Let cool. Blend in a mixer with clove of chopped garlic. Stir in sour cream, blend. Salt and pepper to taste.