Wednesday, February 24, 2010
It has been a mild winter here on the West Coast....wet, gray, fogged in day after day, but mild. And that means early nettles!
Here is some info on nettles from Susun S. Weed in her book The Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year (a book I HIGHLY recommend if you are planning on having babies) :
The common stinging Nettle, Urtica dioica, is one of the finest nourishing tonics known. It is reputed to have more chlorophyll than any other herb. The list of vitamins and minerals in this herb includes nearly every one known to be necessary for human health and growth. Vitamins A, C, D, and K, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, and sulphur are particularly abundant in Nettles.
Benefits of drinking Nettle infusion before and throughout pregnancy include (Katrina's note: I feel that many of these benefits are sure to be true after the birth as well!)
~Aiding the kidneys.
~Increasing fertility in men and women.
~Nourishing mother and fetus.
~Easing leg cramps and other muscle spasms.
~Diminishing pain during and after birth. The high calcium content, which is readily assimilated, helps diminish muscle pains.
~ Increasing the richness and amount of breast milk.
~ Improves the elasticity of the veins. Good help for varicose veins.
Feeling inspired to get out to the nettle patch and do some picking!?
As with any wild food harvesting, make sure you know what you are picking before you eat it! I find a pair of garden gloves and a plastic bag works best for harvesting nettles, but a pair of rubber gloves or even a thicker plastic bag for your picking had will work too (they really do sting!) Picking the top 1-2 inches of the plants in early spring (or late winter on the West Coast this year) gives you the tenderest treat, but I found that picking and using even the tougher late summer leaves was fine.
I did loads of nettle smoothies (and nettle tea, and steamed nettles) while I was pregnant with Sophia last spring and on into the summer. My intuition is that nettles and other green smoothies were part of the reason that my iron levels stayed in good range throughout my pregnancy (I was not taking any iron supplements or eating any meat.)
My favorite nettle smoothie:
1-4 cups nettle tops (they are very strong tasting, so if you have never had raw nettles before, start small!)
3 cups blackberries
2 cups water
I also really love steamed nettles (yes, I am using some cooked food this chilly winter!) with a little bit of coconut oil and tamari. Simply put a huge pile of nettles, stems and all, into a pot with some water on the bottom. Bring water to a boil, and then turn off, leaving the lid on the pot and letting the nettles steam for about 5-10 minutes. Remove steamed nettles from the water and add a little coconut oil and a dash of tamari. After you have eaten the nettles, you can drink the water that they were steamed in!
Nettle tea, or infusion as Susun Weed calls it, is another staple in my kitchen. Here is how Susun recommends making a water based infusion:
Use one ounce of dried leaves (two handfuls of cut-up leaves or three handfuls of whole leaves) in a quart jar. Fill the jar to the top with boiling water, put the lid on and let it steep for four hours at room temperature.
Leaves contain the potent healer chlorophyll. Long steeping extracts all the chlorophyll, as well as the vitamins, minerals, and other medicinal components of the leaves. Steeping in a closed jar keeps the water-soluble vitamins from escaping in the steam.
Having the time to harvest and dry your own nettle leaves for tea is wonderful, but if you don't, you can almost always find dried nettle in the bulk herb section of your local health food store! If not, try out our favorite bulk herb shop on-line, Mountain Rose Herbs.
There you have it, one of my favorite wild foods, the common stinging nettle.
I've never tried it in juice, but I bet some one will! Let me know what you discover with nettle juice, oh potent!