Stinging nettle is a springtime abundance when foragers look forward to enjoying its young shoots, either cooked as a potherb or a restorative and energizing tea made from the leaves.
Botanical name: Urtica dioica. Common Name: Stinging nettle, tall nettle, California nettle, etc.
|Stinging nettles. (Photo: svklimkin)|
Stinging nettle is a perennial herb with opposite deep green leaves with serrated edges and tiny greenish flowers. It grows ubiquitously in temperate climates by riversides, streambeds, and in forests, and farmlands.
Nettles prefer fertile, moisture-rich soil to flourish.
It is an erect, perennial plant with branching roots and bristly stems growing up to 6-9 ft tall. Lanceolate leaves and square-stems are covered with stinging hairs. Tiny yellow-green flowers, females hanging like catkins, males in spikes appear in summer.
Leaves are gathered before flowering; used fresh or dried in sun. Nettle foragers usually gather them from February to May when they are young and tender.
Its young shoots and leaves are valued for nutritious food and in medicine for improved digestion and rejuvenator.
Handling nettles with bare hands do elicit serious sting; should be gathered carefully with the help of the right tools. Foragers use either gloves or scissors and a basket/thick bag.
Avoid harvest nettles from roadside, hedge, or industrial sites because they can absorb harmful minerals and pollutants from the soil.
Cut the stem with scissors or gloved hands and place them in a large bag or basket.
For drying, secure nettle stalks with a rubber band and hang them upside down in a dark dry place. Strip the leaves once nettles are completely dry and crispy. Use gloves and run pinched fingers up the stem to strip.
Stinging nettle are one of the moderate-calorie leafy vegetables. 100 g of cooked leaves hold 42 calories.
They are storehouse of several vital phytochemicals, anti-oxidants, vitamins, and minerals that immensely benefit overall health and wellness.
Phytonutrients and antioxidants in the drumstick leaves play an important role that help reduce some diabetes symptoms, protect the cardiovascular and liver health, and support brain health.
Nettle greens are one of the excellent sources for vitamin-K; 100 g provides 499 µg (about 416% of recommended intake). Vitamin-K has a potential role in bone health through promoting osteoblastic (bone formation and strengthening) activity. Adequate vitamin-K levels in the diet help limiting neuronal damage in the brain; thus, has an established role in the treatment of patients who have Alzheimer's disease.
Fresh leaves are rich source of folates. 100 g of fresh greens contain 40 µg or 10% of folates. Folic acid help prevent neural tube defects in the newborns when advised in anticipant mothers.
Nettles contain 2010 IU of vitamin A, 1150 µg of β-carotene, 4180 µg of Lutein-zeaxanthin/100 g. Research studies suggest that vitamin-A and flavonoid compounds in green-leafy vegetables improves vision, help protect against skin, lung, and oral cavity cancers.
Stinging nettle are abundant in B-complex group of vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), and pantothenic acid that are essential for optimum cellular enzymatic and metabolic functions.
Nettle greens are also an excellent source of minerals, especially calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and iron. They pack a small amounts of other essential minerals and electrolytes such as potassium, manganese, selenium and zinc.
In Canada and European Union, nettle leaf is regulated as an active ingredient of licensed natural health products (NHPs).
It is used as Traditional Herbal Medicines (THM's) as a
supportive therapy to help relieve rheumatic complaints,
nutritive tonic, and
to help relieve seasonal allergies like eczema.
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percent of RDA|
|Total Fat||0.11 g||<1%|
|Dietary Fiber||6.9 g||18%|
|Vitamin A||2010 IU||67%|
|Vitamin K||499 µg||416%|
In the North-West US and British Colombian Canada, each year foragers look forward to springtime and head towards the forest to gather fresh, tender nettles.
Choose fresh, crisp, bright green nettle leaves in tiny bundles. Avoid sunken, dry, yellow, and bruised leaves as they are out of flavor.
To preserve nettle leaves for tea or seasoning, gather leaves that are clean. Hang them in tiny bundles and dry under the shade till they appear shriveled and crumble and crushed.
At home; store fresh, un-washed leaves inside a perforated plastic bag in the vegetable drawer.
Cooked nettles may be frozen and preserved for later use.
Store dry leaves whole or slightly crumbled in a dry place like a glass jar or a plastic bag out of direct sunlight.
Stinting nettle young shoots and leaves are widely used in spring soups and as a green vegetable.
To prepare, rinse nettles in a colander to remove dirt and debris. Cooking removes the stinging character of nettles and allows them to consume safely.
Here are some serving tips:
|Nettle pasta with salted cod. (Photo: Eugene Kim)|
Add cooked nettles to quiches, casseroles, meat-pies, egg scrambles, meatloaf, lasagna, etc.
Enjoy nettle pesto over toasts, in pasta or meat and seafood dishes.
Enjoy stinging nettle in mouth-watering risotto.
Nettle tea is a favorite springtime drink, enjoyed for its freshness as well as health benefits. Cleaned nettles are boiled for 3-5 minutes and drink while hot.
Dried nettles are used in tea infusions and are a delicious addition to soups, sauces, and chutneys.
Nettle bristles inject inflammatory substances like histamine when handled with unprotected hands. The result is swelling, redness, and itching of body parts that came in contact with the nettle sting.
Put ice over the itching part and take anti-histamine drugs or consult your family physician for serious stings.
Because of their high vitamin-K content, patients taking anti-coagulants such as warfarin are encouraged to avoid this food since it increases the vitamin-K concentration in the blood which is what the drugs are often attempting to lower. This effectively raises the effective dose of the drug. (Medical disclaimer).
Also read ≻≻-
≻≻- Dandelions nutrition facts.
≻≻- Arugula (Salad rocket) nutrition facts.
≻≻- Back to Vegetables from Stinging nettle. Visit here for an impressive list of vegetables with complete illustrations of their nutrition facts and health benefits.
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USDA - Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.
Stanford School of Medicine Cancer information Page-Nutrition to Reduce Cancer Risk.
Urtica dioica- Extension Gardener- North Carolina plant toolbox- PDF.