Posts Tagged With: nettles

The Healing Power of Nettles

Nettle tea - 2015 vintage

Nettle tea – 2015 vintage

After a strong nettle tea this morning, I feel supercharged and inspire to share the wealth of our green and bountiful friend.  The nettle plant is much misunderstood, yes it stings a bit, but there is so much more to nettles than that.  It is one of the healthiest plants that grows in temperate areas and is something we could all benefit hugely from incorporating into our diets.   Nettles are one of natures multivitamins (and the rest)!!

We love drinking nettle tea, its a complete health tonic and ideal first thing in the morning. The way we start our days is so very important, what we choose to put into our bodies after many hours sleeping can have a huge effect on our day and health in general.  Nettle tea is the perfect start!  It’s just one of those infusions that you know is doing you the power of good. Then you read a little into it and you’re certain. Nettles are packed full of pure plant power.

Nettles have historically been regarded as a superbly healthy food in many different cultures.  Milarepa the famous Tibetan sage and saint ate them when meditating for ten years in a cave, eventually turning green and gaining the ability to fly (I love these legends).  Sometimes I think we feel like exotic foods, with cool names, are our only source of sparkling nutrition.  However, there are so, so many super foods on our doorsteps (or nearby).

Milarepa - Green after a few too many nettles

Milarepa – Green after a few too many nettles

The nettle picking season is just around the corner and we’re very excited. Hopefully a few will be ready before we head over to the States. North Wales is quite a tough place to grow things however nettles love it and we go on massive picking sessions each year, drying them in our dehydrator or in the boot of our estate car (on very warm days). We can then store the leaves for tea and adding to soups and stews throughout the year. You can even pan fry the leaves or use them fresh, just like spinach. Its a way of stocking up on essential minerals, vitamins and a whole host of sparkling nutritional properties, not to mention that the tea tastes wonderful. Its in the realm of green tea with a few added nuances. Some say its an acquired taste, but I think most are?! When the leaves are fresh, they have a lighter flavour. Free wonderfoods fresh from the hedgerow, now you’re talking!!

Nettles grow prolifically throughout the temperate areas of the world.  They actually thrive on the waste we produce and interestingly, large patches of nettles may be used as sign of previous settlements that are now long gone from our countryside.

Pan Roast Maple Parsnips and Young Nettles

Pan Roast Maple Parsnips and Young Nettles Recipe

THE POWER OF NETTLES
One of Jane’s teachers, Susan Weed, is a firm advocate of all things nettle and writes about them extensively.  Nettles are also known as the devil’s leaf and even wild spinach, they are certainly equally delicious and even more nutritious.  There are literally hundreds of health properties attributed to this wonder plant, here are a few:

  • Nettles strengthen the kidneys.  Their Greek name is Urtica Dioica, ‘Uro’ meaning urine.
  • They are a powerful tonic, anti-anaemic, diuretic, anti-spasmodic, anti-allergenic, decongestant, anti-arthritic, laxative, antiseptic, anti-rheumatic, anti-asthmatic, expectorant……..the list goes on and on.
  • Nettles are ideal for women, especially during pregnancy, childbirth and lactation.  Nettles help with menstrual cramps, nausea and bloating.
  • A general relaxant that helps with hypertension.
  • Fresh nettle juice is antispetic and can be used as a kitchen spray, for washing skin.
  • Nettles infusions can be used to wash hair, leaving it shiny and thick.  They are also said to prevent hair loss.
  • Helps with gastrointestinal diseases, IBS and constipation.
  • Cures the common cold.
  • They can also help with hormonal, adrenal and energetic imbalances and the circulatory system.
  • They can be taken as an anti-histamine, which over a period of time, can cure ailments like hayfever.
  • Reduces gingivitis and prevents plaque when used as a mouthwash.
  • Nettles are known as a digestive restorer and consistent use of nettles strengthens lungs, intestines, arteries and kidneys.
  • Even the nettles sting has been shown to alleviate joint pain!
  • And many, many more……

It’s even been said; 

“The seed of nettle stirreth up lust……”

Gerarde-Johnson 1633

You can definitely say that nettles are an all-rounder!

It is worth mentioning that if you are taking certain pharmaceuticals, you should seek a doctors advice before taking nettles regularly.

NUTRIENTS

Nettles are especially high in calcium, vitamin C and iron.  They are also high in protein and fibre, a whole host of minerals and many more vitamins.

The whole plant is basically a powerful medicine, from roots to seeds.  It is especially good for ‘pale and pasty types’.  I like this little rhyme:

“If they would eat nettles in March and drink Mugwort in May, so many fine maidens would not go to the clay” (Funeral song of a Scottish mermaid)

We seem to have lost touch with so many of natures gifts that surround us throughout every season which are there to give us health and vitality.  I believe that in each environment we can find the nourishment we need to thrive, that is, if we have the knowledge and are inspired to seek them out.

Brewing nettles for tea

HARVESTING NETTLES

Nettles are easily identified by most, we’ve all had a little incident with them as children.  Like any plant, if you are not completely sure, don’t pick it.  There are many different types o nettles, this is especially true if you’re traveling to other countries.  Some have a very nasty sting.

We travel with marigolds and bags in nettle season and when we see a good patch, we harvest.  For eating fresh and drying, take the tender, young leaves from the top of the plant.  The first four is a good rule of thumb.  Like many plants, the growing energy is concentrated in the upper plant, this is what we after.  Nettles become more fibrous as the season goes on, so get in there during early spring although some young paler nettles will grow in shaded areas until late summer.  Always pick nettles, and any edible plants, away from man made signs of poisons and ground contamination.  This means away from roads, railway lines etc.  Many foragers also avoid plants near popular dog walking areas, or at least pick above leg cocking height!

COOKING NETTLES
Nettles are easily transformed into a delicious edible green leaf vegetable.  Simple blanch them in boiling water, this breaks down the formic acid which stings.  You can leave them to steep to make a lovely tea or use as you would any leafy green.  Try a Nettle Aloo or Nettle Soup.  We love them in smoothies and iced teas.  Nettles make for a great pesto and can be used in place of basil and we especially like nettle hummus an stirring the leaves into hot pasta.

NETTLE JUICE

Rinse young leaves and stalks in water, place in a mechanical juicer or place leaves in warm water and leave to steep for 30 minutes.  Place in muslin cloth and wring out the bright green juice.  The juice will keep in a fridge for one day.

RUTH’S NETTLE SOUP

Recipe here.

NETTLE TEA

Recipe here.

PAN FRIED NETTLES

Blanch the nettles leaves in just boiled water.  Save the water as a stock or drink it.  Strain the leaves well.  In a frying pan, add some oil and garlic followed by the leaves.  Fry for a minute and served topped with pine nuts or almonds.

TINCTURES

Jane also makes a wonderful nettle tincture, basically pop lots of leaves into a kilner jar and cover with vinegar (you can also use alcohol like vodka or gin).  You should use young leaves,  dried or fresh are both fine.  Leave for a month or more (the longer left, the stronger the tincture) and then strain with muslin cloth.  Place in small bottles and use the tincture for eczema, psoriasis, allergic rashes, rinse in hair to treat dandruff, taken internally it is known to treat hayfever.  Take 1 teas poon every morning as a preventative or three times a day to treat ailments.

Glorious nettles!

Dry the leaves without blanching them.  As I mentioned, you can do this in a warm car with a couple of windows slightly opened.  On a very sunny day, thinly lay out the nettle leaves on news paper.  Leave for a day and check that the leaves are nicely dry and crisp.  If you are lucky enough to have a dehydrator at home, dry as you would kale or other leaves.  It won’t take long.

The strong fibres of the nettle plant have been used to make paper, sails, bags, cloth (think a silky linen) and makes a very strong string or rope (fifty times stronger than cotton).  Nettles have been cultivated in Mexico for 8000 years for these purposes.  Nettles can also be made into a dye, the leaves for green and the stalks for yellow.

Nettles are a gardeners delight.  They are hugely nourishing to the soil and are amazing on compost heaps.  They can be brewed into a homemade plant fertiliser packed with nitrogen compounds (this stuff stinks by the way) and can be grown as a companion crop with tomatoes and aromatic herbs.

I still think that it’s incredible that nettles are not sold in greengrocers or markets.  It is a shame that more people are not benefiting from this stunning plant.  I’d say if you’re taking multivitamins, why not try nettles instead.  They’re perfectly natural and free!

Drinking nettle tea and eating fresh nettles in stir fries, soups etc will ease and energise the circulatory, immune, endocrine, nervous and urinary systems.  Like I said, an incredible overall tonic and they literally grow on trees (or in small bushes).  If we all used nettles wisely, pharmacies would go out of business!  Nettles are good for us in ways that we don’t really fully understand yet.  The nettles season is coming, don’t miss out!

If you are interested in foraging or taking courses in the UK, www.wildforage.co.uk is a good place to start.

Categories: Detox, Foraging, Healing foods, Healthy Eating, Inspiration, Local food, Nutrition, Recipes, Spring, Superfoods, Vegan | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Braised Maple Parsnips with Young Nettles

 

Pan Roast Maple Parsnips and Young Nettles

Braised Maple Parsnips with Young Nettles

An ideal, quick and easy side dish and we are quite partial to the odd parsnip at the moment!  Throw some grains into this recipe (like millet or buckwheat) and a couple oh handfuls of walnuts or hazelnuts and you’re looking at a fine lunch.

Don’t let the bristly stings put you off, nettles are one of natures greatest gifts to Brits, they come just after winter and are packed with brilliant nutrients (see the ‘Foodie Fact’ below) that will help us get over our long winter blues. You can make them into a soup, stew, smoothie, pan fry them as they are; in fact these prickly lovelies are good in most things.  Nettle cupcakes may be pushing it however!

Nettles have a lovely flavour, quite unique, a little like spinach but with a unmistakable nettle tingle to them.  Nettles really feel alive, they are certainly a feisty plant and grow everywhere when given the chance.  The worst  thing you can do with nettles is cut them and leave them on the ground.  More will grow!  This is a good thing for us but can wreak havoc on your Dahlias.

HARVESTING NETTLES

Harvesting nettles is so easy, just handle with care.  We have been walking loads at the moment, reacquainting ourselves with all the local flora and fauna.  We normally stash a plastic bags in our pockets and use it for nettle picking.  A rubber glove, like a marigold or garden glove, can also be very handy.  If you are walking on a path, where people walk dogs, pick high.  For obvious reasons!!!  Some people even pick the nettle bare handed, apparently if you grab them quickly, it doesn’t hurt.  We have obviously not mastered this technique. OUCH!

Jane feeding our neighbourly horses - mid Nettle pick

Jane feeding our neighbourly horses – mid Nettle pick

Nettle season is coming to an end, but it seems that there are still many tender young plants around the Beach House.  Just pick the first four leaves down, anything below will be a little tough and coarse.  As with most leaves, don’t eat nettles when they have started to flower.  Something happens chemically and they lose their nutrients and become tough on the belly.

Fill your boots.  Now is the time of year to get your last batch of nettles and dry them for later in the year.  You can use dried nettles in soups and stews, but its really best as a tea.  Nettle tea is packed with nutrients and tastes delicious.  Free food!  We’d be silly not to!!!!  You can also make a load of tea and then cool it, strain it and keep it in the fridge and drink throughout the summer as an awesome, chilled infusion and full-body tonic.  Trust us, nettles are magic and will keep you shining!

One of the easiest ways to dry herbs, if you don’t have a dehydrator (they are becoming cheaper and more popular), is to lay your leaves out in the boot (for estates) or seats of a car and roll the windows up.  On a hot summers day, your herbs will dry out in no time at all.  You can dry herbs in a warm oven, but this can be energy consuming and hit and miss.  Sometimes they can burn.  Ideally, you live in a hot and dry part of the world, where drying means putting things outside in the sun.  In Wales, we have to be a little more creative!

I like to add a little lemon juice at the end, just to lift a little of that intense sweetness.  It gives a bit of a sweet and sour finish to the dish.  If you love sweet things straight up, you don’t have to bother with the citrus.

The Bits – For 4 (little plates), 2 (big plates)

5 medium sized parsnips (lightly scrubbed, but not peeled.  Cut into 3 inch batons or as you like)

6-8 big handfuls young nettles

1 tbs rapeseed oil

2 tbs maple syrup

1/2 tbs lemon juice

Sea salt and pepper (to taste)

Do It

Pick all the stems, insects etc off your gorgeous nettles (use your gloves for this), give them a good rinse.  We just want the small, tender, fuzzy leaves.  Get a small saucepan of salted water boiling.  Add the nettles to the water and blanch them for 30 seconds or so, then plunge into some cold water (keeping them vividly green).  Drain well just before serving.  If you want them warm, just blanch them before you serve the parsnips and don’t bother with the ‘plunge’.

In a large, heavy frying pan, warm the oil on a medium high heat.  Add the parsnips, toss in the oil and fry for around 7 minutes, until they begin to go golden and caramelised.  Then add roughly 2 tbs of water and cover with a lid, lower the heat to medium and leave them for 7 more minutes.

Then whip off the lid and turn the heat back up.  Pour over the maple syrup, gently toss the parsnips in the syrup and cook until you are happy with the beautiful, dark, caramelised glaze, a few minutes will do, then squeeze in a little lemon juice.

Braised Maple Parsnips with Young Nettles

Braised Maple Parsnips with Young Nettles

Serve

Stack the parsnips onto a nice plate, surround with a nettle ‘nest’ and tuck in.  You may fancy a little more salt and pepper.

Foodie Fact – Nettles

Nettles are actually more nutritious than Broccoli or spinach.  And they are free.  How cool is that!  I wonder how long until one of the big supermarkets starts to bag them up and sell them as a ‘niche’ product?

Eating nettles helps to keep our kidneys and adrenal glands up to speed.  Nettles are the perfect detox food, as they assist our bodies in expelling toxins.  These lovely leaves have also long been used as a diuretic and to treat joint pains.

Nettles are very high in Vitamin A (bones), K (blood clotting) and Calcium.  In fact, just 100g of nettles contains 1/2 your daily calcium requirement.  Calcium can help to alleviate symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, headaches, mood swings and bloating.

Nettles are also rich in minerals like Iron and Magnesium and are packed with dietary fibre.

Categories: Dairy/ Lactose Free, Detox, Foraging, gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, photography, Recipes, Side Dish, Spring, Wild food | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Nettle and Wild Garlic Pistou

Nettle and Wild Garlic Pistou

Nettle and Wild Garlic Pistou

Jane and I have been visiting the local hedgrerows and horsefields recently and have regularly come back with a bumper crop of nettles and wild garlic.  It is such a wonderful time of year for these abundant herbs, they’re also easy to identify so there is no reason why we shouldn’t all be taking advantage of one of natures finest freebies!

This is a pistou (French/ Italian) not a pesto (Italian), mainly due to the lack of nuts.  If you add pine nuts, or anyother nut, you’d probably call it a pesto.  Otherwise both are potent blends and something rather special to have hanging around the fridge.

There are a vast amount of edible shoots, leaves and berries that we are not aware of (by we, I mean us at the BHK!)  We have books, we have TV programmes, but you cannot beat getting out there and having a look at whats growing for yourself.  For example, we have recently learnt that young hawthorn leaves are a rare sweet treat.  We’re taking it easy and adding a few new foraging delights to the menu each year.

Wild garlic and nettles have magical health properties.  Nettle tea is a staple at this time of year and this pesto blend makes the most of both.  It can be kept in the fridge for while and adds a unique flavour to anything it touches.  Dressings, soups, stews, bread, to name a few we’ve stuck it in.

Nettles were used extensively in ancient Tibet and the Buddhist saint Milarepa was said to live on them when on retreat, turning green and enlightened.

Jane and I getting the potatoes in - May

Jane and I getting the potatoes in – May

Jane and I have gotten ourselves into a multitude of busy situations, gardening being but one.  There has been much rain recently and today we managed to get out into the garden and pop the potatoes into the earth.  We also have much beetroot, cavolo nero, spinach, rocket, rainbow chard, sunflowers and I can’t remember the rest.  Needless to say, we are excited about the prospects of the Beach House Garden this year and have our fingers well crossed for a mild, wind-free summer.  Very, very, very wishful thinking.

Nettle and Wild Garlic Pesto

Nettle and Wild Garlic Pistou

The Bits   

60g nettle leaves, 40g wild garlic leaves, 4 garlic cloves (crushed), 100ml evoo, 100g veg pecorino (using wild flower rennet), 1 pinch salt and 2 pinch pepper

Do It

Blanch nettle quickly (30 seconds) in simmering water, this will keep them nice and green and take the sting out of them!

Blend together until paste formed.  Add a little more olive oil if you like in runny.  For old fashioned style, use a pestle and mortar, if you’re modern, whizz in a food processor.  Simple as this.

Serve

In a pistou stew, see below, or spread on toast!  It really comes to life tossed in warm pasta.

We Love It!

It literally grows on trees (or below them).  This is our type of gardening, wander around pick it, no digging or engaging the brain.  Go for a walk with a plastic bag and one rubber glove (those nettles take no prisoners) and you have a harvest on your hand.

Foodie Fact

Nettles contain bags of chlorophyll, calcium, iron, trace minerals, vitamins and proteins.  They can be made into paper, hair lotions, thread, soil enricher (great on tomatoes!), disinfectant for  stalls and stables, cups of tea…..It is a tonic, diuretic, astringent, anti-asthmatic, chi strengthener, anti-anaemic, laxative and a nettle brew can heal damage tissue.   It strengthens kidneys, lungs, intestines and arteries with regular use.

Pistou Stew - Recipe to follow

Pistou Stew – Recipe to follow

Categories: Foraging, Garden, Healing foods, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Homemade Nettle Tea

Nettles

Nettles are here and we are loving them.  They are like a cross between mint and spinach and one of the first green leaves of the summer.  Some call them weeds, we call them feed!

Nettle leaves can be dried and enjoyed later in the year, or just thrown straight in a pan of boiling water.  They can also be stir fried to great effect as a spinach substitute.

Nettle tea can also be made for your garden, it makes great plant feed.  You just need a load of nettles in a large container covered with water.  Every day, stir them.  This will stink after a while, keep going for 4 weeks and you have some seriously good feed that can be used on tomatoes.  Great natural fertiliser.

You can even throw some nettles leaves in a bath of hot water, it apparently helps to relieve aches and pains.  We haven’t tried this one out, please check that the sting is long gone before diving in!

Brewing the nettles

For the drinking variety:

The Bits

Nettle leaves (1 cup of leaves makes 2 cups of tea), Water

Do It

Boil water in a pan, add leaves.

Homemade Nettle Tea

Serve

In your finest mug.

We Love It!

It literally grows on trees (well bushes).

Foodie Fact

Nettle is a natural elixir, invigorating the body in preparation for the busy summer time. It is a strong blood purifier and helps to dissolve kidney stones.  It is ant-inflammatory and can help with arthritis, high blood pressure and helps to clean out the digestive system.

Learn more about nettles and sustainable living on this great site, earth easy.

Categories: 'The Good Life', Budget, Detox, Foraging, Garden, Healthy Living, Infusions, Local food, Recipes, Tea, Vegan, Vegetarian, Wild food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Ruth’s Nettle Soup

More foraging antics here from good friends of the Beach House Kitchen, Dan and Ruth.  They have kindly sent across this recipe for their tasty nettle soup.

Eating nettles may sound strange, but they lose their sting when cooked and have been eaten in Britain throughout history.  Even Samuel Pepys sampled nettle porridge on February 25th, 1661.   The trend died out recently, I have no idea why.  Nettles contain significant amounts of iron and calcium, also giving you a big hit of vitamin A.

Dan and Ruth have been raiding the hedgerows of South London, looking for stinging nettles and wild garlic.  ‘Tis that time of year!  It is so good to be outside in the green.  I love the seasons, how they heighten our expectation and enjoyment of spring, when life returns and nature wakes up.

Ruth mid-forage

This is a recipe we will be trying very soon.  We are surrounded by bushes of nettles.  I love their flavour, like hedgerow spinach.  I wonder if there is a recipe that uses dock leaves.  That would be quite a thing!  I remember as a child being fascinated by nature, the fact that dock leaves always grew with nettles.  When I stung myself, the remedy was always at hand.

The Bits

2 glugs of olive oil

1 onion (chopped)

1 carrot (diced)

1 leek (sliced)

1 large potato (chopped)

725ml vegetable stock (good quality)

250g stinging nettles leaves [note: weight does not include stems] (washed)

75ml soya single cream

Do It

Heat the oil in a large saucepan (preferably one that fits one of those countless lids in your cupboard) over a medium heat and add onion, carrot, leek and potato. Fry for 10 minutes until soft and the onion starts to colour. Add the stock and cook for a further 15 minutes until the potato is soft.

Add the nettle leaves and simmer for 2 minutes until they have wilted. Once done, pour all into a blender and blitz away until nice and green. Return to the pan over a low heat and stir in a glug of olive oil and the cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Nettle Soup

Serve

With thick crusty bread and smiles.

Foodie Fact 

Stinging nettles are best eaten before they flower (less bitter) in late May. Wear some gardening gloves and take a pair of scissors. The top part of the nettle often has the best leaves.

Categories: Budget, Foraging, Recipes, Soups, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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