When I was a young, one of my fondest dreams was to be like the boy in “My Side of The Mountain,” who ran away to live in the Catskills, eating acorns and catching wild rabbits. Except acorns can be bitter. Plus I had no idea how to make rabbits into a bologna sandwich. Add to that the fact that spiders roam wild in the woods, and it becomes very clear why I never ran away to the Catskills. I did once discover a patch of wild chives growing by the creek in my subdivision. I picked and ate every single one. I had breath that could kill a cockroach, but I was free. As it turns out one does not really outgrow certain fantasies. And this brings me to my topic, which is – nettles.
Nettles grow wild in a lot of places, but surprisingly given my outdoorsy youth, I had never heard of them. Imagine my enthusiasm when we moved to the Pacific Northwest and a neighbor told me that there was an abundantly growing, super healthy, wild green – free for the picking! And what could possibly be better than free right? Well, how about free and happy? More than just a food adventure, nettles are like a dream date for your adrenal gland. They elevate mood and reduce stress by stimulating the production of cortisol and adrenaline, otherwise known as the “happy hormones.” Happy adrenal gland, happy you!
Like dandelions, people tend to think of nettles as an invasive or undesirable plant, and it is true that you might not want to tiptoe barefoot through a patch of nettles, but if you want a green that’s protein rich and screaming with springtime vibrancy, put on your boots and take a hike. Bring gloves (so you don’t get stung), a brown bag, scissors or a pair of clippers and you are halfway to living off the land. O.K., maybe not halfway, but outside at least. Wildman Steve Brill says you can find nettles throughout most of the United States“in rich soil, disturbed habitats, moist woodlands, thickets, along rivers, and along partially shaded trails.” If that all sounds a little too far from the beaten path, don’t despair. Nettles can be bought dried, in tea form, or as a tincture at your local Walmart.
Note: Nettles can be used in almost any recipe where you would use other greens, smoothies, soups, eggs and lasagna to name a few. They are high in iron, potassium, manganese, calcium and vitamins A and C. I’ve been told that a cupful of the leaves steeped in boiling water makes and invigorating tea, full of greenish goodness that can help alleviate allergies. Fresh is best, but if you have extra you can leave them in a brown bag to dry or lay them out in a warm dry place. Early nettles are the best for eating. “Knee high” is the rule for collecting, and always before the bloom.
To find out more about how this woodsy wonder can make you look great as well as feel great see our very own Chelsea Vurciaga’s wonderful post: “Common Herb Fountain of Youth”
Here is an awesome recipe for Nettle Pesto! http://honest-food.net/foraging-recipes/greens-and-herbs/nettle-pest
And here are some more recipes, including one for making Nettle Vinegar. Can’t wait to try this! http://rustikmagazine.com/stinging-nettles-an-ancient-cure/#.U1mwDVxnbYg
Learn more: http://www.richsoil.com/nettles.jsp