Nettles: the new superfood
Nettle: Urtica dioica, Urtica urens
Now, at the beginning of summer, nettle leaves are at their freshest, ready to harvest and make into delicious, nutritious dishes. Nettles are being touted as the new superfood, here’s why.
Conditions nettles can benefit
Allergic reactions - due to the anti-histamine constituents such as histamine and quercitin.
Skin conditions such as eczema due to the anti-histamine and alterative (blood cleansing) actions.
Arthritic and gout joint pain due to the tannins, potassium and flavonoids making it diuretic to remove excess fluid around the joints.
Diabetes type 2 and hyperglycaemia due to balancing blood sugar through the hypoglycaemic – glucoquinones contained in the plant.
Menopausal hot flushes due the circulatory stimulant and heat reducing actions.
High blood pressure due the circulatory stimulant actions and vitamin and mineral constituents.
Fatigue, anaemia and convalescing after illness due to the high iron content as well as magnesium, calcium, chromium, zinc, potassium, phosphorous and silicon. It also contains vitamin C to help the body absorb iron effectively and B1 and B2 to help build strength after illness. Other vitamins include A, E and K.
Urinary system conditions including cystitis and the prostate where there may be early signs of BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia).
Increasing breast milk production due to having a galactagogue function.
Bleeding wounds, cuts, nosebleeds and haemorrhoids due to the anti haemorrhagic actions of the tannins and Vitamin K.
Burns, sunburn, scalds, bites and stings due to the anti-histamine and antibacterial actions. Apply cooled nettle tea or fresh juice to wounds.
Worried about the sting?
Don’t worry - once nettle is blanched, steamed, cooked or dried the stinging compound is removed.
How to wild harvest
Only harvest the leaves if flowering hasn’t begun otherwise the leaves contain chemicals which may irritate the kidneys.
Make sure that your arms and legs are well-covered, including your wrists and ankles. Rubber washing up gloves are ideal for protecting hands.
Find a good patch of nettles away from roadsides and industrial sites because these plants will contain pollutants.
Cut off the upper leaves only with scissors. Check the undersides of the leaves to make sure there is no white spittle which indicates bugs on the plant. Place in a bag or container.
At home, separate the leaves from the stalks and place the leaves in a container of warm water for about 10 minutes. This will remove most of the sting.
You are now ready to prepare the nettles according to your recipe.
You can substitute nettles for any recipe using kale, spinach or cavolo nero. Google nettle recipes and you’ll find many to choose from. There is a wonderful collection here.
Basic nettle tea
Put about 30g nettle leaves in a tea pot or cafetiere
Add 500ml cold water
Steep for 2–4 hours or longer
Strain and drink cold or reheat the liquid
You can add honey, lemon, ginger or any other herbs. I like lemon balm with mine.
Over to you
Harvest and find a recipe that you like the sound of get cooking to enjoy a truly delicious and nutritious dish or drink.
Always seek qualified practitioners and always check with your doctor before undertaking new therapies.