By Andrea Cullen
April 23rd 2014
Ok I will admit I am a wimp when it comes to eating nettles. I have a ridiculous paranoid fear that I will die by asphyxiation if I eat these little nutrient bombs. And so despite knowing better I am treading cautiously for my first attempt at eating these nutrient powerhouse. Please also be warned that I have total recipe following ADHD and so the following recipe is another Andrea invention; my apologies in advance as quantities are rough estimates based on what I felt like chucking in!
Ancient health-food and remedy
Nettles have been used in Europe for centuries as food in early spring when other sources of food were scarce.
Stinging nettle tea traditionally has been used spring tonic and is recommended to anyone recovering from a long illness or who has “chronic weakness, fatigue or anaemia”. To make nettle tea simply steep the dry or fresh leaves in boiled water for 10 minutes and strain. The steeping process will destroy the ‘sting’ and what you have left is a delicious and nutritious green broth.
Nettle tea is also a great internal cleanser, useful for urinary tract problems and inflammatory conditions and is said to be helpful to and protective of the prostate.
Apparently a traditional remedy for rheumatism involves smacking the affected area with fresh nettles, sting and all to relieve pain and inflammation. I am not so sure about this I am still traumatized by the memory of falling head first into a gathering of stinging nettles in shorts and t-shirt as a youngster and no amount of dock leaves rescued me from the pain.
Dock leaves cure nettle stings: If you don’t know of the myth, in brief rubbing the leaves of a dock leaf plant on the nettle stings is believed to relieve the burning pain of the nettle sting. Whether is it placebo or truth; it did indeed rescue myself and my brothers many a time from the perils of playing down the fields and falling into the nettles and getting stung. This is an interesting thread on this topic.
Dock leaves are abundant in the fields here in Ireland and are never too far from the stinging culprits.
Collecting these stinging beasts
When collecting nettles most of the advice on websites advises attacking this with close to full body armour. I recommend a pair of rubber gloves and just not being silly and jumping full on into the nettles where they may pierce your clothing!
This is the field at the back of our house where I collected my nettles. Check out the awesome cloud play I was privileged to catch on my way.
Nettles are rich in vitamin A, beta carotene, iron, calcium, and vitamin K. They are also helpful as a kidney cleanser and diuretic and are abundant in numerous antioxidants. Being dark green I would expect these to be high in magnesium also. Be sure to pick nettles far away from any pesticide sprays or traffic exhausts and despite frequent washing from rain it is no harm to give them another rinse. All the same I question this as our tap water contains more chemicals than rain water; but a final rinse will remove the bugs and unintentional insect protein!
Nettles may also be used blanched as a side dish, in casseroles, stocks and broths. There are many recipes suggested on the internet such as here
Enjoy getting creative with them. I felt a yearn to add them to wild mushrooms and sweetened this up with some butternut squash. I was fortunate to have some delicious home-made lamb bone stock to hand.
Lamb bone stock
As Easter dinner was just the other day I had the gift of a lamb bone and made fresh stock from the following:
Lamb bone with some meat remaining
1 large onion roughly chopped
2 small carrots roughly chopped
Mixed dried herbs
This was simmered for 90 minutes and the fat strained using a fat straining jug. I added the onions and carrot from the stock into the nettle soup.
Nettle soup ingredients:
- If you are not using stock as above then add an onion
- ½ small butternut squash or ¼ large butternut squash – peeled and sliced finely to speed cooking (I am an inpatient cook!)
- Wild forest mushrooms and Portobello mushrooms – washed and sliced
- Real organic butter
- Fresh nettles – removed carefully from the stalks and washed
- Spinach and watercress – washed
- Fresh stock as above, fresh chicken stock, or organic MSG free stock
- Sea salt and black pepper to taste
- Optional cream
- Optional thickening using cornflour or potato flour
- Optional: serve with a dollop of cream or home-made wild garlic pesto
- Sauté the onions in butter if you are not using home-made stock. Remove and place aside.
- Sauté the sliced mushrooms in butter.
- Add the butternut squash to the mushrooms and cover with enough stock to cook the squash through. Cover with a lid and allow to simmer.
- When the squash is tender through add the spinach, watercress, nettles, (cooked onions) and sufficient stock for these to all swim.
- Simmer for approx. ten minutes.
- Blitz with a hand-held blender or in the liquidiser. You may prefer to thicken with cornflour or potato flour. Season to taste with sea or Himalayan or Hawaiian salt and fresh black pepper.
- Serve as is if you wish to keep this lean; if you wish to indulge consider adding a generous dollop of cream or home-made wild garlic pesto.
The following substitutions I am sure would work wickedly well: leeks for onions; sweet potato for butternut squash or celeriac if keeping this lower in carbohydrates; and coconut milk for cream if sticking to Paleo principles.
Please do add your comments and recipe suggestions; sharing is caring
Love Andrea x