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My Newest Obsession: Stinging Nettles

Stinging Nettles is my new obsession. Urtica dioica is the botanical name. The herb is energetically described as “cooling.” In addition to increasing my daily intake of homemade Nettles tea (I make a homemade infusion using 14 grams of dried leaves per 1 quart of water), I’ve been very interested in searching for them in the wild to harvest for pesto and to sauté as I would like spinach.

I felt joy when I opened the April / May 2015 issue of Paleo magazine and saw on page 35 a recipe for Stinging Nettle Soup with Lemon-Chive Crème Fraiche. Are Stinging Nettles the hot item for spring 2015?

Possibly my body is craving the A, K, and B complex vitamins along with iron, calcium, and magnesium. The nettle leaves are a rich source of vitamins and minerals necessary to build bones and support skin, hair, and nail health. At my age retaining bone density is a concern. And what female doesn’t want beautiful skin, hair, and nails?

It is a lovely tea to drink. My Mom also liked the taste. Is that not proof that everyone will like it? During the week I drank the high dose tea, I observed happiness and a sense of peace and calmness. How wonderful is that? I have since returned to my normal tea formula of nettles, gotu kola, red clover, hawthorn and hibiscus; with one change, the nettle quantity is almost double.

The second week of April, I was unsuccessful in finding nettle growing along a friend’s garden. The plant prefers shade and is commonly found near streams. Disappointed, I knew I needed to patiently wait a week or two for additional days of warm weather. A week later we took a Sunday drive to Point of Rocks on the tip that they grow under the Route 15 bridge and along the C&O Canal Towpath.

They are calling stinging nettles for a reason. The leaves and stems are covered with hollow trichomes or hairs that inject histamine and formic acid to cause pain and welts on the skin. Wearing garden gloves, I quickly filled my 14-inch diameter steel bowel. Not knowing if this was enough the bowel was emptied in the vehicle, so I could fill it again. When done we walked about 2 miles north on the toe path with Reishi the Bichon. On the logs over the stream with the slow moving algae covered water were many turtles. Often the CSX trains traveled on the tracks above.

We took the scenic road home, stopping at Rocky Point Creamery for ice cream. Returning home my work begun. On the deck with regular household scissors I snipped the leaves from the stems. That was easy. The real work began in the kitchen washing the leaves. After soaking in water, the leaves were triple rinsed and spun dry. In the Cuisinart, 1/2-cup of extra virgin olive oil was pulsed with 2-cups of packed leaves. Seven batches were stored in vacuum bags to be frozen. The limiting factor at the moment is basil. They are not abundant in the gardens yet. Thus, I patiently wait until I can make a batch of Garlicky Nettles Pesto.

I will no longer question the price of a pound of dried leaves from Frontier Coop or Mountain Rose Herbs. I have experienced the work that is necessary to harvest, clean and prepare the nettle leaves. At this time, I cannot imagine personally harvesting leaves to dry for tea. I may return to Point of Rocks or the Monocacy National Battlefield to harvest more for sautéing. Or the alternative is purchasing fresh leaves from England Acres in New Market.

Since the nettle that I harvested was young, I do not think I need to worry that is had been sprayed. Although that may be a concern as spring transitions into summer and the public areas are maintained.

Nettles are the perfect medicinal herb that is easily transformed into food. A new item to always have in your the pantry. Food is medicine.

Garlicky Nettles Pesto
  1. 2 cups fresh basil
  2. 1 ½ cups fresh nettles
  3. ¾ cup olive oil
  4. ½ cup pine nuts
  5. ¾ cup freshly shredded Parmesan
  6. 6 large cloves garlic
  7. ½ round tsp salt
  8. ¼ round tsp black pepper
  9. a squeeze of lemon juice
  1. Place all ingredients in a cuisinart or blender and blend until mixed.
Adapted from Rebecca Snow
Adapted from Rebecca Snow
Everyday Nutrition - Maryjane Bembenek

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