Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Nettles - a gift of spring

(NOTE: My herbal world has moved to the Northwest. I truly miss the bounty of the Wisconsin farm and fields. But I'm relearning the nooks and crannies of my home state again, living in the bedroom I grew up in, and finding old friends in the woods and meadows of the Oregon Coast. A wild child is a joy where ever it may grow!)

Only one thing gets me more excited about spring than seed catalogs - NETTLES!!

Once the nettles start showing their rambunctious green shoots, I know it is truly spring. Early spring - but spring nevertheless.

The first harvest, Saturday morning, was celebrated in a cow pasture - well fertilized, unsprayed, and most importantly - uninhabited by cows. I brought home a 5 gallon bucket of three to five inch long baby nettles, and started some nettle tea brewing almost before taking off my boots!

You'll be hearing a LOT more about nettles over the next few weeks, so let's just cut to the good stuff. EATING them!

While a load of leaves were drying in the dehydrator, I made a Wild Child Green Smoothie for lunch, with a side of nettle tea.

Into the VitaMix: a nicely spotted ripe banana, a peeled and quartered sweet juicy orange, about 1" of peeled and minced fresh zingy ginger, a big handful of baby spinach, 1 1/2 c. water - and about a cup of nettle leaves. Whiz. Drink with abandon!

The last of the Saturday harvest is now brewing in a quart jar, which will sit overnight. In the morning, I'll strain out the nettles, and enjoy sipping the deep green infusion all day long.

Nettle are the supreme spring tonic. So full of minerals, vitamins and protein (more information next post), it's no wonder they protect themselves with little stabbing stinging hairs! In tea, or raw in salad (yes, you can!) and smoothies, nettles pack a nutritional whollop that would be sinful to ignore.

Especially since they grow abundantly, are free, and farmers love to have you come pick them out of their fields!