orWine Tastings in the Comfort of you own villa or B&B while on holiday in Tuscany or Liguria

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Sunday, 28 October 2012

Wild Food of the Month: The Stinging Nettle

Today I'm singing the praises of the humble stinging nettle, probably the best known and most easily recognised weed in the world.  But first of all an apology for the relative silence on my blog.  I've been kind of busy lately with this and that.  After returning from the latest Permaculture course at the end of September, I launched back into some anti-landslide measures (more of that later, once I have discovered if they have held after this weekends torrential rains...), I worked on a garden design for a friend nearby (I'll give you some insights about that too soon), I ran a wild food walk in the mountains for a group of ladies from Colorado and I had a visit from Virginia, a follower of my blog from Iowa.  On top of all that I am planning a surprise birthday party for myself, as I'll be turning 50 in 3 weeks time.

But to come back to my subject, it's fairly common knowledge that the stinging nettle (urtica dioica) is edible, but most people are reluctant to try it, because they associate the plant with the stinging sensation on your skin, the last thing you want to feel in your mouth.  Think again though, because the nettles is full of nutritious goodness with high concentrations of iron, vitamins and essential minerals.  Medicinally it is used as a blood purifier and cleansing tonic.  Dried powdered leaves can be sniffed to stop a nose bleed.  They also stem internal or external bleeding, including menstrual bleeding.  It stimulates the circulation, it is used in the treatment of athritic rheumatims, it's a diuretic and can reverse prostate enlargement.  The list of it's health benefits goes on.

So how do you use it then?  Well, when dried or cooked the stinging effect goes and they become safe to handle.  So for medicinal use simply dry the leaves and make a tea from them.  To eat, a nettle soup is tasty, but I would like to share a recipe with you that I learned from my friend Gabriele at the last Permaculture course:

Nettle Pesto:  Non-Italians often only think of the one kind of pesto, Pesto Genovese, with basil, pine kernels and Parmesan cheese, but pesto simply is anything mashed together to a paste, originally with a pestle and mortar.  This is a really simple recipe, which you can vary to your own taste.

  • A couple of handfuls of young nettle leaves (some machos out there pick them with their bare hands... I wear gloves!)
  • about 30 shelled hazelnuts
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • salt
  • olive oil
  • Optional extras: a few sprigs of lemon balm and mint.  1 finely chopped tomato
Blend all the ingredients except the tomato in a blender (or a pestle and mortar if you prefer).  Stir in the tomato, if used.  Serve on crostini or on pasta.  

I've tested this recipe on a few people recently with great success.  And yes, the sting goes treated like this too.

One word of caution: Do not use old nettle leaves as they may be an irritant to the kidneys.

And to those living near me... Next Sunday, 4 November I will be going on my traditional winter berry walk followed by a jam making session.  Anybody wanting to join me, send us a message.


chaiselongue1 said...

I've eaten nettle soup, and enjoyed it, but hadn't thought of making pesto with nettles. The trouble is we don't seem to see as many of them here as we did in Wales - I'll have to look out for them!

Heiko said...

I know what you mean Chaiselongue, they are not as abundant here either. i look for them in damp ditches and at the bottom of slopes where the soil is more nutrient rich. Often they associate well with lemon balm, which looks similar and, if you look closely you can spot a few leaves of that in the top photo.

Nicole said...

Thank you Heiko!! These are all over alla Foce and I have been drawn to them but didn't know it was this miraculous nettle! Now I will gather a whole bunch to dry. Hope you are well and your ground is staying put with all this rain.