How much nicer is it to be able to go around the supermarket in a big bow line, and instead head into the forest. Lucky me, I only have to get beyond the fence that keeps the deer out of our vegetable garden and I am in the forest. For an interested eye and mind that is where some of the goodies I cook with are coming from: the forest as my market.
Nettles are so versatile, that the list is endless. Skip the part that I extracted from ‘The Herbalist’s Bible’ from Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal and want to read the recipes.
Nettles is one of the world’s great herbs, and has been recognized through history as such wherever it grows. It was an important medicinal in the time of John Parkinson, the last of the great English herbalists who died in 1650. Besides opening the belly, lungs and throat, as an anti-allergenic would, it can treat asthma and hay fever. It stimulates menstruation and treats a number of malfunctioning of the womb. It can increase breast milk. It treats prostate problems for men. It’s a blood restorative and nourishing, as well as containing bio-available iron useful in treating anaemia (deficiency in the number or quality of red blood cells in your body). Nettle roots, leaves or seeds work as a diuretic (promoting urination and help dissolve gravel and stones from the kidneys and bladder). Nettle kills worms in the belly and reduces windiness. Dried nettle seeds has a reputation as an aphrodisiac in many cultures and times. Handier perhaps, the seeds are valuable against narcotic herbs and counter the effects of mercury, poisonous fungi or an excess of mushrooms. It’s good for the skin and nose bleeds, for sores and scabs, even flesh separated from the bones. It’s good for joint pain, and as an ointment. It can be used as a urine test (nettle mixed with healthy urine will stay green after 24 hours). Nettles can be used against nettle rash. Julius Caesar’s invading army in 55BC had the soldiers rub their limbs with Roman nettle for warmth. Nettle is good for compost and in spring soups, and as a diabetes medicine.
When I met people interested in the benefits of turning weed into edibles, they’d point me always towards nettle, maybe because nettles are easy to distinguish and are growing plentiful. Where I like bold, strong teas, I was not fond of nettle tea. But when I saw a recipe for healthy energy balls rolled in dried nettle powder, I became very curious to nettle. I now tried nettle powder to eat and will soon try dyeing cotton with nettle. To grind nettles into a powder is super easy.
2. Dry (and wash)
4. A few recipes
1. Don’t pick stinging nettles when in flower
The photo above shows what you should not pick.
The flowers on stinging nettles are not very flowery like and I picked all the wrong ones at first. The nettles with little hanging bundles of ‘flowers’ dropping down from the stems, green or yellowy-green in color, so not always obvious to spot: do not pick. This signifies a change in this nutritious plant, a change that is of benefit to butterflies and moths, though not to humans. At this stage, I red a saying: ‘At the first sign of flowers you must stop picking. The plant will now start producing cystoliths – microscopic rods of calium carbonate – which can be absorbed by the body where they will mechanically interfere with kidney function.’
Note: a word of honesty is needed here, as I copy and paste from other websites where they sometimes back up there writings by sentences like ‘studies showed’. I do not check those studies, but simply take what our ancestors knew and practiced is better than any mass production and messed up factory products. I rather go by common sense, that what is given to us through nature, must be wholesome.
I gathered nettles in June and dressed in long sleeves and a long pair of trousers with socks and closed shoes, so the nettles would not prick through my open sandals, to pick the nettles I wore gardening gloves. However, be prepared to return covered in cleaver balls and wild wheat.
2. How to make nettle powder
Both photo’s above show the nettle tops that can be plucked.
Gather fresh nettle tops which are bright green, leave all not-fresh-looking and purple colored aside. I only picked the very fresh, new leaves on top of the stalk.
There are several ways to dry nettles. First, wash and dry them as much as possible, either in a salad spinner or between tea towels (a step I’d forgotten…).
If you’ve plenty of time and space, just leave out in the open sunlight on a dry rack until crispy dry. It needs to be sunny for two days at least, with temperatures around 25 degrees or more. Turn them now and then to check that all the nettles will thoroughly dry.
3. Out in the sun nettle leaves dry in 2 days
The nettles need to be dry enough that they crumble easily when touched or rubbed. Be aware, they can still sting a little (once they are powdered they won’t be able to sting you). I used an electric grinder to make the powder but when you don’t have such a kitchen machine, a mortar and pestle will do too, for smaller batches that is. I store the powder in a plastic bag in a glass jar where sunlight have no access.
Are nettles a super-food?
Super-foods tend to be plant-based, highly nutritious foods that often also contain antioxidants, believed to protect the body from toxins and diseases such as cancer. Nettles contain iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, and calcium, vitamin A, C, K and B’s.
Apparently nettle powder is nutrient density food. It contains three times the protein level as compared to the traditional source of cereal proteins (such as rice, wheat, and barley). In addition, nettle powder has one of the richest sources of crude fiber (9.1%) which is more than 9 times higher as compared to wheat and barley flour. And stinging nettle is also rich in minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, and iron which made it probably one of the richest sources of minerals among plant foods.
Rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants nettle is a universal cleanser that helps cleanse the body. Its high amount of chlorophyll quicken detoxification, fight bloating and promotes cells regeneration.
Research shows that 100 gram of nettle can supply our body with 90-100% of a daily dose of vitamin A (including vitamin A as β-carotene). Though, I measured and 100 gram of nettle is more than one would like to consume. Moreover, nettle is a good source of protein, calcium and iron even when the nettle is dry.
Another note: I am not trying to be a medicine madam, just using what is given to us for free, if we take the time and effort to extract the bounties. I believe being in nature is soothing, relieving and powerful, so to go out and search for edible weeds, to turn the weeds into dye and to learn about their properties is a never ending, exciting and rewarding (small scale) journey.
Uses of nettle powder
- Add one or two teaspoons to porridge or granola
- Sprinkle it over your eggs
- Make super-food smoothies
- To add them daily into food, mix them with salt and use it in dressings or on salads
- You can add it to cooked sauces or gravies but just at the end of cooking. As high temperature destroys its nutritional value.
- Add it to raw cakes and protein balls.
- Apparently, nettle leaf flour has been incorporated in many recipes, for example, bread, pasta, and noodles dough, but I have to try it yet.
- Use the nettle powder to make a tea. I tried preparing a matcha tea but the nettle sank down, though it tastes good. You can simply add nettle powder to your favorite green tea mixture.
Nettle sweet energy balls
Original recipe from Rachel Lambert from Wildwalks Southwest UK, but I’ve altered it.
- 250 g (1 cup) pitted dates
- 3 tablespoons elder flower syrup (the original recipe uses nettle syrup. When you don’t have syrup; leave out or substitute for honey or agave syrup)
- 60 g (⅓ cup, plus 1 tbsp) cashews (or almonds, or any other nut)
- 2 teaspoons carob powder (optional)
- 2 tablespoons nettle powder
To give the balls a layer you can use anything (carob powder, elder flower powder, rose-hip powder, though easier is curcuma powder, sesame seeds, desiccated coconut or, of course, nettle powder).
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor. Scrape the sides every now and then until a paste has formed.
Shape the mixture into balls the size you like them. Pour a topping onto a plate and roll the balls until coated. Store in the fridge and use within a week; best eaten at room temperature.
The beauty of growing (part of) your own food is more than just healthy, it is beauty to the eye and rapture to the senses. It is hard work too. A visual reconnection with traveling the world because food is life.
Nettle syrup is SO delicious that you just want to drink cold drinks. For a teetotaler this is a nice change in hot sweaty summer days
I started to use plant parts to dye cotton with and in the process of finding these materials I try to get more use out of it. Carob is such a thing. Yippee, makes me happy to get multiple uses out of one plant.
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Posts about natural dyeing, my outdoor activities, searching and multiple usage of plants and roots