Why take synthetic multivitamins when you've got a powerhouse if nutrients growing in your backyard?
This month, just before the festive season, I want to introduce you to an often overlooked weed/herb: Stinging Nettle
Put your gloves on and take a stroll outside. Once you have tuned your vision to spot nettles, you will be amazed how prolific they grow and with a hand full of recipes up your sleeve you can now add a nutritious green to any dish. We had Nettle soup and a nettle omelet for dinner last night and it was divine. Our two wwoofers also loved it!
Description: Before you pick nettles, be sure it is the right variety: urtica urens or dioica. The first one is an annual and is often found in stockyards, gardens and chook pens. The second one is a perennial and taller in size, but the uses are the same. Be sure to stay clear of the native urtica ferox or Ongaonga, whose sting you will not forget for a few days.
Nutrient content: The common stinging nettle or european nettle however is a great addition to your diet. It is a powerhouse of nutrients containing:
- Vitamin A, C, E, F, K, P
- Vitamin B- complexes as well as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B-6 all of which are found in high levels and act as antioxidents.
- Zinc, Iron, Magnesium, Copper and Selenium
- Boron, Bromine, Calcium, Chlorine, Chlorophyll, Potassium, Phosphorus, Sodium, Iodine, Chromium, Silicon and Sulfur
- Sixteen free amino acids have been found in the leaves as well as many carotenoids such as beta-carotene, luteoxanthin and lutein epoxide.
Harvesting: Harvest fresh shoots before flowering as they are more tender. If you don't find any young ones, use the tips or just cut older stalks at ground level and pick the fresh shoots that appear after a couple of weeks. Wear gloves and use secateurs or scissors to cut off the hole stalk at ground level.
Uses: The leaves don't sting after steaming, cooking or drying. Steam the whole stalks and pick off the leaves afterwards. Use them like spinach or silverbeet. Dry stalks and take off leaves once dry to use in herbal teas. Mix with lemon balm or mint to give it a more pleasant flavour and enjoy a cup of tea full of nutrients!