STINGING NETTLES – TIME TO BITE BACK!

Stinging Nettles are affectionately known by many as herbs that bite. Many, many, more refer to them as the most hated – and feared – weed in their garden. You might even be tempted to wish for their extinction altogether. Be careful what you wish for. For one thing, this is a wish that will never come true. Not only does each plant produce thousands of seeds that practically germinate the second they touch the soil, nettles also spread rapidly by root. So you will never get rid of them, which is a good thing. Why? Because it?s not the nettle we need to get rid of, but our attitude towards it.

Stinging nettles are herbs that warrant a second look. The plant packs an astonishing whollop of good health and great eating in every bite. In other words, it?s time to bite back! A word of caution – don?t eat the mature leaves raw, since that would be the equivalent to squatting down in a patch of poison ivy. Same pain, different cheeks.

Stinging Nettles have been used for centuries as a cure for everything from the common cold to cancer. The leaves are rich in calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, silica, iodine (dry and pulverize the seeds for a healthy alternative to salt), sodium, sulfur, tannin, beta-catotene and vitamin C and B. Ironically, they also pack more protein per plant than anything you could ever deliberately grow in your vegetable patch!

Recent studies indicate that Nettles are a natural antihistamine and can alleviate seasonal allergies such as hay fever. As if getting rid of those red eyes and running noses wouldn?t make you attractive enough, regular ingestion of nettles also help you to grow thicker hair, clearer skin and stronger nails. For all you know, stinging nettles could be the only thing standing between you and a career as a super model. They can even provide you with a whole new wardrobe! During the first World War, Nettle?s fibrous stems were used to replace the shortage of cotton and made into army clothing and bandages. Why not high fashion as well?

Nettles pack the most potency in their earliest spring shoots, but can be harvested all summer long for fresh tea, greens or for drying. By fall the leaves will start to get tough and lose their nutritional value. To dry nettles, pull on your gloves, cut the entire plant off at the stalk, tie into bundles and hang in a dark, airy place until completely dry – usually five to seven days – then strip off the leaves, crush and store in glass jars with plastic lids. Or spread out on a cookie sheet and dry in a 150 F oven for approximately two hours. Hint – If nettles are less than six inches tall they are usually too small to sting and can be picked bare handed, but experiment at your own risk!

If you?re ready to grab a basket and bite back with a vengeance, here?s some interesting recipes to get you started!

Mock Parsley Sprinkles – Add dried, finely crushed, nettle leaves to soups, stews, cottage cheese, eggs or any dish that could use a lively dash of green.

Stinging Nettle Pot Herb – Nettle leaves are similar to spinach, only milder and more tender, especially when young. Simply steam or boil the leaves until tender and then season with butter, cheese, sauce or lemon juice.

Nettle Quiche –

10-inch unbaked pie shell

1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

2 cups cooked nettles, drained

1/4 cup minced onion

4 eggs

3/4 cup light cream or milk

salt, pepper, cayenne to taste

Sprinkle cheese in bottom of chilled pie shell. Spread prepared nettles over cheese. Beat remaining ingredients and pour over nettles. Bake in 400oF oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350oF and bake another 20 minutes or until custard is set: when a knife inserted comes out clean.

Stinging Nettle Hair Tonic – For shiny hair, simply simmer four quarts of freshly picked nettle leaves in one quart of water for three hours or until infusion is strong. Cover and let steep until cold. Strain. Add 1/2 cup cider vinegar, bottle and cork. This solution can also be massaged into scalp as a dandruff treatment, used as a comb through for thinning hair or as a deterrent for balding.

Well, I?m all out of room, but I also have a great recipe for soup, nettle wine and spring tonic! If anyone is interested e-mail me at contact@shannonmckinnon.com and I?d be happy to send them along.