~ by Heather Gardner
With most things in life, pleasure is partnered with pain and seldom do we have one without the other. Matters of love, life and wild edibles are no different when it comes to pain, so it is no surprise that one of the most nutritious, wild, superfood heroes of the fields comes fully loaded and ready to sting us into retreat. Luckily, wild wellness warriors will not be defeated in their quest for nutritious morsels to nibble on.
So with scissors, gloves and dock leaves to the ready we brave the briar patch in search of the pleasures and beautifying benefits of the stinging nettle.
According to Sergei Boutenko, Wild Edible expert, nettles are one of natures most nutritious wild foods, they are rich in iron, silica, calcium, vitamins A, D & K. Nettles soothe and prevent hay fever and allergies, regulates blood sugar and improves circulation. Nettles also help rheumatism and arthritis; in many cultures people would thrash themselves with nettles to help these conditions. Eating them is said to be helpful for stiff muscles after exercise.
Stinging nettles, rich in silica, strengthens the hair, skin & nails making it perfect for beauty seekers and the reason why health heroines are advised to start their day with a nettle infusion. Another endearing property beloved of wild beauties is that it has long been used as a spring detox, to help clear out the excesses of winter and get ready for the summer ahead.
Nettles are abundant in iron as well as chlorophyll, the green pigment in plants that helps to build and replenish our blood as well as alkalize and detoxify our bodies. It also contains, manganese, which helps in the absorption of iron, as well as magnesium and potassium, which helps the muscles and heart function.
Picking & Processing Nettles
The best way not to get stung by stinging nettles, is to wear gloves when picking them, or simply snip them into a container (your blender jug for example) with the help of scissors. They are at their best to eat when young and light green, before they grow tall and start to flower. Pick the top part, not just the leaves; the stem is also good to eat. If you do get stung, don’t worry its good for you, but if you want to ease the pain either apply a crushed dock leaf or some nettle juice. To eat them safely either process them in a blender or boil them.
1. Nettle Infusion
According to Susun Weed, a herbal infusion is a large amount of herb brewed for a long period of time. Drinking an infusion will give you more health benefits than just having the occasional tisane. Nettle infusion is good for everyone to drink daily but particularly good for women who are menstruating, to replace iron. During pregnancy and breastfeeding it is beneficial for its nourishing minerals and effect on promoting milk production.
- 1 cup of dried herb, a big bunch of fresh or 4 nettle teabags
- 1 quart /1 litre of water.
Pour the boiled and slightly cooled water over the herb in a teapot or thick glass jar (be careful that it doesn’t shatter with boiling water), put the lid on and allow to steep for 4-10 hours or overnight.
The following day strain the herb from the water. You should have a nutrient dense, super elixir. Sip on this brew throughout the day. It may start to spoil after 36 hrs depending on temperature. It can be served chilled or reheated.
You can also experiment adding in other nutritious healing herbs. Horsetail works well with nettle for its beautifying silica rich content, red raspberry is mineral rich, as is oat straw, and a few sprigs of mint can lift the flavour and aid digestion. If you find it an unusual taste at first then a spoonful of honey may well make the medicine go down, and in no time you will start to love it.
If messing about with all those jars of herbs and reheating doesn’t appeal to the time pinched wellness warrior, don’t fear! Another option is to pop your nettle tea bags or loose herb into a thermos flask. Top it up to the brim with boiling water and pop on the lid. If you do this last thing at night you can wake up and enjoy your hot potent potion first thing in the morning.
If you find you can’t finish the whole litre in a day then you can use what’s left over as a great hair rinse, wonderful for adding shine, thickening, strengthening, nourishing and reducing dandruff. Or give your plants a boost by watering them with it.
2. Wild Blender Juice
Collect wild edibles, such as nettles, cleavers, chickweed, and dandelion leaves. Add any of the following–cucumber, celery, apple, lemon or lime seeds removed. Clean the greens if necessary and pack into your blender filling it to about half. Add in enough fresh spring water to cover, or more if you wish, and blend until everything is completely broken down. I like to make a pot of fresh herbal infusion such as spearmint from the garden to add as the liquid to this juice for a fresh flavour. Strain through a nut milk bag and serve.
Tips & Tricks
If you would like to make it sweeter and creamier, here’s a little trick. Rinse out the blender jug and put in ¼ – ½ a melon flesh. Blend it without adding any water, until it’s a creamy liquid, then stir this into the strained wild juice…delicious
If you’re finding this juice to be too bitter for you then try adding a few drops of stevia or skip the dandelion leaves. The bigger and older the dandelion leaf the more bitter it will be so try switching to young small ones. If you want to give this to your little ones, then add less greens, no lemon and more apples and blend with plenty of water, strain well and add it to a stainless steel beaker that stops them from seeing the colour, hopefully they will love it! If not introduce them to Popeye!
3. Green Nettle Smoothie
Nettles are great to add to smoothies, just snip some nettle tops directly into the jug and add the other ingredients.
- A few handfuls of nettle leaves
- A mango
- 1 banana
- 2-3 cups of water
- If you want it not to be green add ½ cup of fresh or frozen berries.
Blend and enjoy!
4. Nettle Lemonade
- ¼ – ½ a jug of nettle tops
- 2-4 apples
- Juice of 1 lemon or lime (be careful not to let the pips/seeds into the jug, they taste very bitter)
- A few spoons of your sweetener of choice
- A small pinch of salt if you like.
Add all the ingredients in a blender. Fill the jug up with fresh spring water. Most important part – make sure to put the lid on! Blend until completely broken down and strain through a nut milk bag. You can serve as is, or chilled with some ice, a straw and a cocktail umbrella!
5. Nettle OJ
- 2 cups of orange juice (pineapple is nice too)
- 1 cup of fresh nettle leaves
Blend until fully broken down and drink. If you want to make more of a meal of it, add in a banana, mango, pear or apple.
About Heather Gardner
A lifelong 3rd-generation vegetarian, Heather Gardner is a passionate teacher of plant-based, conscious living. Her mission is to educate people on how the power of plants, used as food & medicine, can restore a wild sense of wellness & love you back to loveliness.
Her extensive knowledge of plant-based living is rooted in her homesteading upbringing on a wild Irish mountainside, where her herbalist mother taught her about herbs, wild foods and plant cuisine. Today, with over 20 years of study and work ‘in the field’, to her name, Heather is a naturopathic nutritionist, hedgerow herbalist, forager, yoga instructor and natural beauty educator, as well as a raw food chef, teacher & writer.
You can find Heather at www.therawteacher.com
This is your last chance to jump on the free 3-Day Green Smoothie Challenge with us. If you’re really looking for a beauty boost, this is where to start!