Spring feels finally here - I picked nettles today! Found some lovely nettle recipes on various blogs yesterday, & wanted to try nettle pesto - yum!
My biologist former hubby has a lovely patch at his mom's (she's 93 & he's her main caretaker). They were growing in what was, for years, a chicken yard. When the chickens needed to be moved (city ordinance), one nettle grew back, & he laid that on the present bed - now there's a lovely stand several feet in diameter!
One of the 7 Favorite herbs Susun Weed describes in "Healing Wise," Nettle has a long tradition of usefulness for humans, gardens, & the world in general. "Know that this is what I am: this complex nourishment of sun, wind, soil, & water, transformed by my attention & my care, transformed into food for you, into milk for you. Green milk for you.
"I nourish your energy, your being, your sense of self worth, and every cell in your body. Sister spinster, great green nettle, will nourish you with the care & joy that a mother brings to her task." (p 165, Healing Wise - if you don't have it on your shelf, oh, do consider adding it!!)
When my daughter was pregnant with her second child, she followed Susun's suggestion (in Herbs for the Childbearing year) for nettle, alfalfa & raspberry leaf infusion - a small handful of each (dried) herb in a quart jar, cover with boiling water, cap & let steep 4 hours.
We'd usually each drink a cup first, & re-fill the water. She added a Tbsp of honey while it was brewing, & drank a quart of infusion daily the last month or so. The mix boosts the baby's vitamin K, & helps prevent hemorrhage in mom (the midwife was surprised at how little blood my dau lost after the birth!)
A tonic or 'daily' herb, nettle boosts the function of kidneys, liver, lungs, intestines, arteries, stomach, adrenals, hair, . . .
To make pesto, it's suggested you lightly blanch the nettles (~ 6 cups of loose leaves = 2 C cooked 1 minute in ~ 1/2 " water) You can spin them in a salad spinner (save the juice & drink it or add it to soup!!) - I just put them in a strainer, then lightly squeezed the last water out - they don't sting once they're steamed :)
I put several spoons of coconut oil into my mini processor with 1/2 the leaves,
a couple of garlic cloves, chopped, &
a Tbsp of sunflower seeds (pine nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts) . . .
& drizzled olive oil in thru the top. I did two batches, & added
a Tbsp of the raspberry vinegar at the end.
I didn't add cheese, tho of course you could.
A recipe on 'the kitchen sink' blog for Italian style pizza suggests a thin crust, & a scant 2 Tbsp sauce - wouldn't nettle pesto be lovely on pizza? With some sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, & her suggestion of adding fresh arugula sprinkled with olive oil after it's baked (5 min VERY hot oven!)
I showed my grand daughters how to eat a nettle leaf raw - a trick Ryan Drum's younger son showed the class during our 'wild crafting herbs & seaweed' class on Waldron Island 20 years ago, & which Ryan mentions on his website.
He comments that young nettles are rich in"“free amino acids”. These are uncommitted amino acids in nettle sap, waiting for anticipated rapid growth in response to either temperature or sunshine sudden increases. When we consume fresh live (or barely steamed, 5-7 minutes) nettles we get those amino acids for our own protein repairs and replacement. Eat young nettles to enhance post-traumatic healing from wounds, auto collisions, surgery, and radiation treatments.
"I usually recommend 2-8 ounces/day raw or steamed young nettles. I teach patients how to firmly and thoroughly compress and roll raw nettles to mechanically disarm the stinging hairs. Nettle shoots could probably be dried for subsequent food or medicinal use."
The 'disarming & rolling' Ryan mentions is done by FIRMLY holding the leaf petiole (stem) in one hand, & with the thumb & index fingers of the other, FIRMLY stroking from petiole to leaf tip several times. (a bit of a trick to be firm enough to break down the hairs, but not to tear the leaf!) Then roll the leaf up, with the 'rib' side underneath, & compress into a 'pill'.
This pesto, made from nettles only steamed for a minute, would leave these lovely amino acids intact!
Viva la Sister Spinster!
If you have any clothes that contain 'ramie' - that's a nettle relative, which has been in use since ~ 5000 BC [Egypt]!
I always loved the story of the girl who made 'nettle shirts' for her seven swan brothers, imagining something like a monk's hair shirt - but no, nettle fiber can be as fine as flax & linen, & is processed much the same way, with the softer outer fibers 'rotted' (retted) off, then the remaining 'bast' fiber (as long as the plant is tall) are pounded & eventually fit for spinning.
'Noedl' - Anglo Saxon for needle, 'ne/net' is related to the Sanskrit 'nah' (bind), German: 'na-hen' (sew) & Latin 'nere' (spin).
& a final word from Susun: "The Tibetan Buddhist saint Milarepa lived exclusively on nettles in his retreat: & it is said that he became both green & enlightened."