Saturday, March 1, 2008

Urtica Dioica-Stinging Nettles

Sprawled out nettles getting ready for washing

Thank you Julie for hosting this months blog party.
One of the first herbs I was taught about is Stinging Nettles. It began as a hearty addition to pregnancy tea I was consuming regularly, pregnant or not. Susun Weed and Rosemary Gladstar always had positive things to say about Nettles so I first consumed them dried in the pregnancy tea blend recipe by Aviva Jill Romm.

A few years of this, and the opportunity for fresh harvesting presented itself. A friend of ours offered them. He has an abundance by his creek beds.
Armed with paper bags, scissors and gloves, we worked carefully to avoid sting. You see, the stems and leaves of nettles have fine hairs which contain histamines and formic acid. If you have ever been bitten by an ant, you may have felt a similar sensation that stinging nettles gives when these hairs have been handled. Ants have formic acid in their sting.

So while children played about, Ray and I gathered with little consequence.

We washed our nettles and dried most of them at that time simply because we were a bit unclear as to what else could be done. This year, we have many new plans.

You see, nettles had been suggested to help fight allergies, which occur in most people living here in thh Ozarks, or at least transplanted folk like myself.
Our first few years would leave me sick for a couple months with severe allergy each fall. Nettles never helped. HOWEVER, this year I heard a lecture from The owner of Celtic Herbs who stated that fresh tinctured nettles works for allergy. Once the plant is dried, it loses that anti allergy effect.
So this is part of our divine plan this year, as well as freshly made vinegars.
Seeds have their own properties as well, and if the opportunty arises, we will tincture nettle seed.
Nettle seed has been found to help severe kidney problems. Also good for the hair and coats of animals.
Experiened nettle using herbalists also have found that chewing a few fresh seeds can be a stimulant.
Steeping nettle leaves or fresh roots in honey, I hear, is good for asthma.
Nettles roots are supportive to the prostate.
And Nettle leaves rich in vitamins and minerals such as calcium, choromium, chlorophyll, magnesium, zinc, iron, manganese, niacin, potassium, phosphorus, protein, riboflavin, selenium,silicon, thiamin, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K.

I encouraged my daughters to drink their pregnancy tea prior to birth since nettles is a large part of the blend. Being good in vitamin K and iron, this helps blood coagulation and hemorrhage prevention in the mother and newborn.

We also are eager for another way we love nettles. You see, once the plant is dried or cooked, that sting is gone. Once we heard of this, we decided to eat the green to try them, and OH MY. You want to talk about delicious!

I dont measure things so do your best with these directions. You cannot go wrong with whatever you come up with.
Using a large dutch oven, I simmer pork hocks until the meat is tender. I pull the hocks out and pull the meat off the bones and put the bones back into the pot to simmer the rest of the day.
This helps the meat retain some flavor but it is not neccesary. You could simmer those bones all day if you need to work or be gone, it wont matter really.
Remove the bones.
Then add clean nettle greens, the tenderest part preferably by clipping the leaves off the stems.
But you can also try cooking long enough so that the stems are tender enough to blenderize into a green puree if you dont want to mess with it.

However you do it I can assure you of pleasure in your dining experience.

As I served the nettle greens the first time I need to tell you I WAS NERVOUS. You can never assure that the books are right when it comes to culinary tastes.
Ray looked at me after his second bowlfull and said, Honey, I think this makes the best greens you have ever prepared.

So nettles greens are a keeper. There are many ideas out there too so if you would like to try soups and things, I am sure there are recipes out there by wild foodsists and the like.

But another PLEASURE I need to tell you about is how nettles smells as it is drying.
We washed all our nettles and had them on a table and the aroma caught my attention each time I drew near. I hope to write a description of that smell this year, because I cannot really tell you how amazing the fragrance of drying nettles without it in front of me.

I will be honest, if you have ever smelled a fresh cannabis sativa bud, it is a bit like that. Aromatic with green notes. Lovely.

Harvest time is usually April-June so it is coming soon. This is one reason why I take a small break in the summer so that I have time to wildharvest and explore plants for food and medicine and devote more time to make quality herbal items for folks(including my beloved family)
I am really looking forward to trying new vaiations of nettles as food such as adding potatoe and leeks to chicken broth or quiche. Spanokopita. Stuffed in pizza? Mmmmm come quickly nettles harvest!

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