If you are strapped for cash, or simply love country walks, but only if there's a purpose to them, why not start foraging for food? Spring is coming and plants that are edible are pushing their way out of the cold winter ground. Soon it will be time to pick young nettle tops and make a delicious soup with them. You can eat stinging nettles, did you know? However it is best to wear gloves when dealing with them, although there are people who manage to use them without getting stung. You can uproot the nettles if they are in your garden and wash them thoroughly and simply pick off the top leaves as these are the tenderest. You can pick the nettle tops in spring and dry them for later use in a nettle tea.
You can make a soup with them by first melting about two ounces of butter in a pan and adding the torn young nettle leaves and simmering them in the butter for about ten minutes. Par boil a pound of potatoes and after the ten minutes is up add these to the nettles with one and a half pints of homemade chicken or vegetable stock. Boil this for a further ten minutes or until the ingredients are tender, then leave to cool slightly before blending with salt and pepper and four tablespoons of soured cream. You may look differently on nettles after this culinary experience.
Herbs and plants are not only for eating, some have medicinal properties too. A tea can be made with two thirds of a cup of boiling water poured over 3 to 4 teaspoons of dried nettle leaves or root, or two tablespoons of fresh chopped nettle leaves or fresh root. Allow the mixture made from the fried nettle parts to steep for 3 to 5 mins, then strain it and drink, sweetened with a little honey. If you are using fresh parts of the nettles then leave them to steep for 10 or 15 minutes. You should drink water after drinking the tisane.
Nettles contain vitamins A, B and C and lectins which seem to stimulate the immune system. The tea has been used traditionally to dispel gravel from the kidneys and stimulates the function of these and the bladder. It is basically a diuretic although a mild one.
These weeds which we avoid whenever possible because of their stings were used in the past as an anti-scorbutic to combat scurvy, useful after a hard winter when there were no fresh greens. However it is not recommended to use nettles if you are breast-feeding or pregnant.
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Photo. Leslie Seaton
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