Thursday, June 7, 2007

Forget the Lettuce! Pass the Stinging Nettles!!!

Sorry for not blogging recently, but the fine spring weather means many extra chores at my house. My garden is in and doing well by providing about 50% of our needed veggies. I expect to be veggie-independent sometime next month as the tomatoes and peppers start ripening. One of the things that people have noticed and commented on is that I am "letting my garden be overrun with weeds!" Then I must explain that not all "weeds" are undesirable and that the ones in my garden are well tended and welcome guests. I have about 10 square feet of Stinging Nettles (and nearly as much Dandelion as I have lettuce.) Why?? Because both Dandelion and Nettle contain more food value than ANYTHING ELSE I could possibly grow. So, early this morning I was out in the yard picking Stinging Nettles. This is the best time of the year to replenish lagging vitamin and mineral levels by munching on the potentially itchy plant.

In folk medicine nettle plants have been used as a diuretic, to build the blood, for arthritis and rheumatism. Externally it has been used to improve the appearance of the hair, and is said to be a remedy against oily hair and dandruff.

The stinging sensation of the leaf hairs is caused by several plant chemicals including formic acid, histamine, serotonin, and choline, that are deactivated by boiling. In addition to these chemicals, nettle leaf is rich in minerals, chlorophyll, amino acids, lecithin, carotenoids, flavonoids, sterols, tannins and vitamins.

You can read more about the benefits of Stinging Nettles Raintree Nutrition

To gather fresh nettles....SUIT UP! Long sleeves and gloves are a must for this project. I prefer Atlas gloves for this chore and all yard work because the rubber palms get a good grip but do not make your hands sweat like other rubber gloves.

I use a plastic grocery bag to gather the nettles so that I can toss it afterward.

Take your Atlas glove and slide your hand up the stem of the Stinging Nettle, stripping off the leaves as you go. Near the top the stem will snap off too. It tends to naturally break at the point where the stem becomes soft enough to eat. Like most greens, Nettles are mostly water so pick 3-4 quarts of leaves and tops to get about 2 cups of edible greens.

Keep your gloves on while you rinse the Nettles!

To cook Stinging Nettles use a large pot with 2 quarts of water. Stuff the Nettles into the pot and bring to a boil. Dispose of the plastic bag. You may now remove the gloves. Allow the Nettles to boil for at least 5 minutes, stir and turn the nettles to insure that it all gets the boiling temperature. This will kill the stinging cells. Allow the Nettles to cool to room temperature.

I use a stick mixer to grind the greens and release more of the water. I can't imagine a kitchen without one of these handy tools!

Strain the greens but reserve the liquid for Green Tea. Squeeze as much liquid out as possible. The Stinging Nettle now looks exactly like cooked spinach and tastes very similar. Serve as is with butter and pepper or cook it into your favorite recipe in place of spinach.

My Favorite Recipes:

Zeljanica (Spinach Pita)

This is a traditional Bosnia fast food. Think of a hot dog cart, only in Bosnia, you would get this instead. Very yummy and very nutritious, especially when made with cooked stinging nettles, a common herb with huge amounts of vitamins and minerals.

2 cups cottage cheese
1 cup cooked, drained and squeezed dry Stinging Nettles
1 egg
2 Tsp of fresh ground black pepper
24 Sheets of Phyllo
2 tbsp Butter


Mix cottage cheese, greens, egg and pepper together.

Spread butter on 3 stacked sheets of phyllo dough. Place 1/8 of cottage cheese mixture in the center of one end. Fold the dough length ways to enclose the filling, brush with butter. Roll up the dough to form a square packet. Brush top with butter. Continue this until you have made 8 packets. Arrange on a dry cookie sheet leaving a space around each one. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes until browned and bubbling. Allow to cool nearly to room temperature. This should be accompanied with kiefer (liquid yogurt drink).

Nettle and Navy Bean Soup

4 cups navy beans (soaked 10 hours)
1/2 pound of cooked nettles
3 quarts water
Seasonings to taste

Put all ingredients in a kettle and boil slowly for about 2 hours. Pass through a sieve. Boil for about 1 minute and serve.

Split Pea And Nettle Soup Recipe

5 cups dried peas (soaked 6 hours)
1/2 pound stinging nettles, washed, cleaned, stemmed
1 onion, peeled
3 quarts water
Seasonings to taste

Boil slowly all ingredients together until peas are cooked. This will take about 90 minutes. Pass through a sieve. Bring to a boil and serve with fresh homemade bread rolls.

Nettle Wine

2 quarts Nettle tea (reserved from cooking Nettles)
3.5 lbs granulated sugar
1/2 oz thinly sliced ginger root
7-1/2 pints water
2 lemons
1 tsp yeast nutrient
wine yeast

Thinly peel the lemons and place nettle tea, ginger slices and lemon peelings in 3-quart pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes. Juice the lemons and put sugar and lemon juice in primary fermenting vessel. Strain nettle tea mixture and pour over sugar. Stir to dissolve sugar and add remaining water. Cover with sanitized cloth and set aside to cool. When room temperature, add yeast nutrient and yeast. After four days of vigorous fermentation, stir well and transfer to secondary and fit airlock. When wine begins to clear, rack into clean secondary and refit airlock. After 3 months, rack into bottles. This wine is drinkable immediately. [Adapted from C.J.J. Berry's First Steps in Winemaking]

Learn to enjoy what you are given by trying at least 1 recipe using one of Mother Nature's most nutritious freebies!


bernard morgan said...

very interesting article, found it while searching for foods that contain serotonin. bernard.

Em said...

Once you pick the nettles, how long do they stay fresh for? How do you store them?

VicinSea said...

Nettles need to be processed as soon as they are picked. Just boil up a big batch, drain and stuff into ice trays and freeze. After freezing you can store the cubes in a bag and add them whenever you need to.

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