Stinging Nettles: Queen of Spring’s Edible Wild Weeds
Nettles, abundant in spring, offer many health benefits and are a delightful green to add to your table
One thing our wisdom elders and grandmothers knew was that the nettles growing wild in spring are delicious, potent medicine for so much of what ails us this time of year. As an astringent, diuretic, anthelmintic, antihistamine, decongestant, and detoxifier, nettles help your body manage the Kapha tendency of spring, especially sinus congestion, allergies, asthma.
Nettles are so good for you that my friend, medicine woman Shannon Thompson, recently said, “It’s easier to list the few things nettles don’t help.”
Nettles grow abundantly in wooded areas, by river beds, and around abandoned buildings. If you can’t find them in your neighborhood, look for the dried leaves and roots in the bulk section of your local market, or pick up a box of nettle tea.
Important Tip: Be sure to wear gloves when working with nettles. Once they are cooked, they are tender and harmless, but until then, they can really sting. In my experience they sting with a lasting vengeance!
If this happens, put your hands in ice water. Then wash with soap. Use tape to extract the nettle thorns (which can be invisible). Apply a thick paste of baking soda (mixed with scant water) and allow to dry before washing off. Finally, eat your cooked nettles for the antihistamine.
Thinking of all the lemony, garlicky greens we find in Italian, French, Greek, Chinese, African and just about every “heritage” cuisine, I am reminded again of how intuitively Ayurvedic wisdom is alive in every culture that grew up from a deep relationship with the land.
One of those classic heritage dishes is this lemony-garlicky sauté of nettles – simple, delicious, and medicinal. Yes, medicine, when it’s nature’s medicine, can be delicious.
Sautéed Nettles with Chewy Crunchy Garlic Serves 2
Whether a soup, a sauté or steamed, leafy greens really deliver when coupled with their spring partners of pungent garlic and sunny citrus. This recipe is quick and easy, and yet serves up a dish of peasant food fit for a queen. Delicious with rice or lentils, on pasta, or with toasted chunky bread.
- a double handful of nettles, rinsed
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon ghee or refined coconut oil
- 1 small lemon
- pink salt & freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- extra virgin olive oil
- optional: red pepper flakes
Use gloves to pick your nettles, then bring them in for a good rinse.
Melt ghee or coconut oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Stir in the garlic, and sauté for a few minutes, swirling the pan now and then to distribute the heat. As soon as the garlic begins to get golden, add the nettles. Cook a minute or two, stir and gently turn. Cook another minute or two and remove from heat once the leaves begin to lightly brown.
Squeeze a generous amount of lemon juice over the nettles, then season with black pepper and pink salt to taste. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, and optionally with a sprinkle with red pepper flakes.
Another option to boost the health benefits is to stir a scant teaspoon of turmeric powder in with the sautéing garlic just before adding the nettles.
Do you have a favorite nettle recipe? Do you have memories of a grandmother harvesting greens in spring? How do you keep the traditions of nature’s medicine alive in your life, your family, our world?
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