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Nettles: Wild and Wonderful

 nettles2

Stinging nettle stings!  And it hurts!
I have personally encountered the needle-like defense system of the Urtica Dioica many times, and
although the ouch factor can be quite high, it hasn’t deterred me from picking this most wonderful weed.
Nettles are so well known that they need no description.  They may be found, by feeling, in the darkest night.”  ~ Culpeper (1561)


(If you do pick them in the wild, in a garden, or at the farmers’ market, do wear gloves, use scissors, and  a pair of tongs. The sting is delivered through tiny bristles on the leaves and stem which contain histamines that cause a burning sensation when touched.)
In fact, the term urtication, refers to intentionally lashing oneself with the fresh stinging nettle in order to relief skin or joint pains. Ouch,ouch ouch!  This somewhat masochistic practice has been used by native peoples around the world, and was relegated to the nebulous realm of folklore until modern scientists discovered that urtica dioica does contain  anti-inflammatory substances that suppress several cytokines in inflammatory joint diseases. (See end of post for references.)

Nettle is often compared to spinach, but it is really much richer in flavor and nutrients and when cooked, reveals a brilliant green hue that is very pleasing to behold.

Benefits of Nettles:

  • helps with anemia (contains iron)
  • tonifies the liver, gallbladder,and spleen
  • prevents BPH (bengin prostate hyperplasia)
  • healing to the kidneys, and aids in  (UTI) chronic urinary tract infections
  • high in iron, also contains vitamin K, plus potassium, and calcium
  • Strengthens the respiratory system
    And from the world of herbal lexicon, here are some properties of stinging nettle: anti-anaemic (helps with iron deficiency), galactogogue (assist lactation for pregnant women), lithotriptic (helps to dissolve kidneys/gallbaldder stones),
    hemostatic (helps to stop bleeding by contraction of tissues)

This is my favorite soup.  Absolutely delicious and quite simple to make.

Nettles Soup with Creme Fraiche

Ingredients:
4 oz. nettles, trimmed (wear gloves and use scissors)
6 oz. potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
(you can also use sweet potatoes, but be sure to get ones with white flesh, and not red,as the redness will turn your soup brown, and not the brilliant green you see in the picture.)
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3″ white part of leek, rough chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Celtic Sea Salt , to taste
Fresh ground pepper, to taste

Place the broth, potato chucks, leeks, and garlic in a medium pot and simmer until potato is tender.  Add in nettles and continue to cook for about 3 – 4 minutes; until the leaves have wilted. Season with sea salt, and fresh ground pepper to taste.
Allow mixture of cool, then transfer to a blender and mix until smooth. (Enjoy the  chlorophyll from the nettles  turn a beautiful jade/emerald color as you blend.)
Re-heat in a pan, adjust seasoning as needed,  and top with a good spoonful of creme fraiche or sour cream.  Be prepared to lick the bowl clean!

We end with a few enthralling factoids on the stinging nettle:

  • The Tibetan Buddhist mystic and saint, Milarepa, lived solely on nettles during his solitary retreat in a mountain cave.  It is said that he became green and enlightened.
  • Nettle flowers in England provide the nectar which is the exclusive nutrient for peacock, and tortoiseshell butterflies. (The English show their proper respect of this plant by celebrating every year with a “Be Nice to Nettles Week”.  2012: May 16 – 27; www.nettles.org.uk)
  • Cloth has been woven from the fibres in mature nettle stems for many centuries – frequently used for tablecloths and sheets in Scotland.

For Love of Food & Friends,

Karen

References:

Healing Wise by Susun S. Weed, Ash Tree Publishing, New York, 1989

http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/stinging-nettle-000275.htm

http://www.anniesremedy.com/herb_detail107.php?gc=107d&gclid=CJyu-_GYvK8CFSM0QgodwzoajQ

On the anti-arthritic studies:

http://www.arthritistoday.org/treatments/supplement-guide/supplements/stinging-nettle.php

http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/stinging-nettle-000275.htm

 

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