MAY Feature Food: Stinging Nettle
Spring where I live in Victoria is bountiful! There is so much at our fingertips to forage here in N. America, if we know how. I strongly recommend looking for a foraging workshop in or around your area, if you are at all interested in doing any yourselves. There are plenty of invasive plants or what we call ‘weeds’ and many of us kill these off in our own yards with chemicals. Did you know that so many of those invasive plants are full of powerful nutrients and can be so healing? This month is Nettle. Yep! That pesky stinging nettle… Maybe I chose this one this month because I’m pregnant, and when you’re pregnant in my world you drink plenty of nettle tea for iron. It’s seeped into my blood stream so much so that I feel amazing and just can’t wait to share it’s benefits with all of you.
Stinging nettle is a bother when we’re out in the bush camping or hiking and we accidentally brush up against it. It stings! It burns! It itches! But it’s not dangerous. That’s because it contains formic acid. The formic acid ids a natural protector for the plant in nature, so that it can be left alone! Buuuut what we humans discovered is that if we wear gloves, long sleeved shirts, pants and covered shoes, we can harvest this amazing plant. Once we get it home and boil it for under 5 minutes, the sting is gone and it tastes like any other leafy green…I’d say, closest to a mustard green, which happens to be one of my faves!
Like any other dark leafy green, nettle is really high in iron, Vitamin K and Vitamin C. If we cook it properly we can absorb these nutrients that help build and repair our blood. Nettle has been proven to be a super hero when it comes to healing any blood disorders, ie: anaemia, ITP, leukemia, Thrombocytopenia, low Vit B 12 or folate. Provides a very healthy amount of all of these nutrients, which all work together to support healthy clean running blood, capillaries and veins, creating vibrancy.
It contains natural anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties. It supports a healthy inflammatory response, which is great for helping us rid ourselves of toxicity. This may seem strange considering the effect it has on our skin when we come in contact. Although, after it’s been dehydrated for tea, made into a tincture or cooked down slightly, it’s properties change. It can be used internally or externally and when taken as a capsule or tea, can be very helpful for combating seasonal allergies. It’s great for supporting the immune system, and safe for anyone with an auto-immune disease. Nettle can also be used topically as an astringent or tea compress for cuts, bruises, strains and inflamed areas.
This great leafy green can also be used for detoxification. It’s a great kidney builder and liver cleanser. A good time to consider using nettle medicinally would be if you’re battling a UTI, or kidney stones, if you’re feeling toxic and are showing signs of needing to detoxify (ie: acne, poor bowel movements, skin conditions…) or if you have a hormonal condition, especially one related to the kidneys, like type 2 diabetes.
Being a whole food as it is, using nettle is a safe way to help heal. It’s safe during pregnancy, and that’s great for me and anyone else planning a babe, building a babe, or breastfeeding a babe. It contains a natural form of Folic acid (folate), which is the most recognized by our bodies therefore easily absorbed into out blood stream and won‘t likely cause constipation, like many of those pesky supplements out there.
I hope you’ll all get curious about Nettle, maybe find some on your next hike and try out a recipe. If you do get stung a helpful and easy way of relieving the pain is using vinegar, baking soda or mud on the affected area, to reduce the symptoms and speed the healing. Whichever you use, make sure you clean the area with good water first. If you use mud, scrub the mud into the area as much as you can handle and then rinse it away. If you use vinegar spray or hold it on the area with a cloth. If you use baking sods, make a paste and rub into the area like the mud, and rinse clean. You can repeat these processes as much as needed. Just make sure to dry it in the open air and not to bandage it up. If you’re in the bush and know what a dock plant is, grab a leaf and hold in over the wound, spore side down. Pure aloe can be applied afterwards to reduce the heat.
Nettle does not HAVE to be foraged by any means, it’s often available at produce markets, local farms and friendly neighbours. It can also be found dried, in the grocery store for the fall and winter months. So, keep your eyes peeled and enjoy this lovely nettle soup recipe:
1 large onion
1 head of garlic (pre-roasted is best)
2-3 medium sweet potatoes
2 large carrots
1 hot pepper (if desired)
1 bunch of herbs (cilantro, parsley, mint, chives…)
However many nettle leaves you have is just fine. Around the size of a head of lettuce when bunched together is perfect.
2 cups of soup stock
1 tsp salt
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Chop sweet potato, carrot and onion (garlic too, if not pre-roasted). Add to a pan at med temperature with ½ cup of stock. Cook until root veggies are soft enough to poke through with a fork.
Add the rest of the stock to the pan heat for 2 minutes.
Add to blender.
Bring a large pot of water to boil (about 1.5L)
USE GLOVES! Wash and trim your nettle, removing any thick stems and keeping the leaves.
Add nettle and 1 tsp salt to the pot.
Boil for 5 mins, strain and add to blender.
Add salt pepper, herbs and a hot pepper if desired to blender. Blend until a creamy puree.
For a creamier consistency add 1 cup of pre-soaked cashew, sunflower seeds or walnuts.
For a more liquid consistency add more water, coconut milk, hemp milk or stock.
By: Suzanne Brett, RHN