Stinging nettles may have a scary name, but if you know how to properly process the plant, you’ll never have to fear discomfort! Boiling, blending, or juicing nettles completely destroys the stingers and neutralizes the bite. There is some controversy over why this occurs. Some say, the stinging stops when nettle spines are crushed during processing. Others claim that nettles juice is responsible for neutralizing and counteracting the sting. Regardless of what you believe, nettles won’t hurt you if you prepare it correctly.
For those who have not had much experience with stinging nettles… Nettles are covered with brittle, hollow hairs that break off when you brushes against them. These hairs are filled with a mixture of three chemicals; a histamine which irritates the skin and causes a rash to break out, acetylcholine which causes a burning sensation, and serotonin, which enhances the effect of the two chemicals. As scary as this may sound, it is harmless! In fact, many cultures around the world use stinging nettles to increase oxygen and blood flow to certain areas of the body. For example, in Russia, the elderly are sometimes prescribed stinging nettles as a remedy for arthritis.
The best and easiest way to utilize nettles is in the form of a green smoothie. To do this all you need to do is cut stinging nettle leaves into your blender container, add fruit, and blend. Another great way to eat nettles is to make a pesto out of it (recipe below). Steamed or sautéed nettle greens also make a great addition to Asian cuisine.
Stinging Nettle Pesto
1 bunch freshly harvested stinging nettles (as big or as little as you like)
1 cup pine nuts
½ cup sundried tomatoes
4-5 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt (or salt to taste)
Blend all ingredients in food processor until thoroughly mixed. Serve with crackers, beads, and veggies.
FOR THE BRAVE:
If you feel adventurous, you can try eating nettles in its raw form. If you roll up the leaf in a tight roll, you will flatten all the spines and be able to eat it with getting stung.
Roll leaf from the side where it connects to the stem toward the pointy tip.
Roll up the entire bottom of the leaf (that’s the side the spikes are on).
When it’s fully rolled, it’s safe to eat!
For more info on foraging download my wild edible iPhone app: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/wild-edibles/id430951647?ls=1&mt=8
No iPhone? No problem! Use the web app version for free: http://sergeiboutenko.com/wildediblesapp/ (works on android phones)