Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Stinging Nettle

A couple of nights ago my husband and I were taking some yard waste to a compost pile behind the barn.  I noticed some wood sticking out of an old manure pile and when I went to investigate, was painfully stung on the hand.  It wasn't a bee, though it felt like it.  It was STINGING NETTLE, a nasty barnyard weed that injects poison into anything that brushes up against it.  My hand burned painfully for the rest of the evening.

I did some research on the plant though, having never encountered it before and learned that it was edible.  THAT plant?  Edible???  You've got to be kidding me!  The white, raised welt on my hand protested.   But apparently it's true and nettle is considered a medicinal herb, once used and eaten by the Native Americans.  I feel bad for the desperate person who was driven to try this one.  But anyway, once you carefully gather the leaves and boil them, they are supposed to be healthier than spinach and just as tasty.  Intrigued.

These carefully plucked leaves are still very dangerous.  You can see the small hair-like barbs that inflict great pain.

So the next day I went out armed with gloves and a shopping bag.  I filled the bag and brought them in the house.   It turned out we had a lot of them back there, plenty.  Not wanting to poison my entire family, I decided to whip up a batch of them for myself.  The collected leaves were very fragrant, herbally so.  Following some directions I found online for proper care of the leaves, I soaked them in warm water.  Supposedly that is supposed to draw out the toxins.  However, after the required amount of time, I strained them out and began sorting through them to remove rogue stems.  It wasn't a minute before my fingers started to burn so I turned to snipping them with gloves.  What did I learn?  Soaking does not remove all of the toxin.  It turns out that this was in the fine print after that particular set of instructions.

Boiling the stinging nettle leaves takes away the sting.

Anyway, the recipe that I chose to make, to soften the blow of what I deemed to be a brave endeavor, was a Swedish soup called Nasselsoppa.  It's basically a cream of spinach soup recipe with nettles in place of the more common leafy green.  So I boiled the leaves as per the instructions.  They smelled of cooked spinach so that was promising.  Everything else was fairly straight forward, the usual roux, cream and stock.  I have to say, it tasted really good.  My only issue with the soup is that it acted like a strong diuretic.  I mean, STRONG, like stronger than a few cups of regular black coffee strong.  I think next time I would not use the cooking water in the soup, like it called for.  The cooking water is bound to contain a lot of the substances found in nettle that act in certain medicinal ways.  It was a dark tea color after cooking and reading up on that phenomenon, yes, it can act as a diuretic and is thus used for lowering blood pressure.  This is not a problem that I have.

The finished soup.  I did not add the full amount of nettles to the soup, erring on the side of caution.  The blue on the egg is from a dyed Easter egg.

That said though, it was a great experience.  I was stung, I got revenge and learned a lot in the process.  Stinging nettle is a fascinating, and tasty, plant.

No comments:

Post a Comment