Superfood is an overused term, seems to be used on everything from smoothies to crisps. It’s become just a term for marketing, but there are some merits in its origin – for foods that are very nutrient rich. Whenever someone asks me what my favourite superfood is I always have one reply – “Nettles!, yes the stingy type of nettle”. In this article I will go through the benefits of nettles, how to harvest and how to use.
Nettles are often overlooked as they can’t be eaten easily on their own and aren’t quite as delicious as some fruits are. However nettles are my favourite superfood as they grow abundantly wildly, are very nutritious and versatile. The roots of nettles can be up to 3 meters deep, meaning they get to absorb vitamins and minerals that other plants just can’t reach.
How to Harvest Nettles
Yes they do sting, but not so much if you use a firm grip. If you are worried about getting stung use gardening gloves. Simply pick leaves off the plant and place into a container. It’s best to choose a patch of nettles away from any commonly used footpaths (just in case dogs have used them). Pick the top fresh leaves. Best time to harvest is in the spring before the nettles flower and they turn woody. Pick the young green leaves and tips.
- Nettle Tea; brew the leaves in hot water for 5 mins (the same way you would for mint) to make refreshing nettle tea.
- Green smoothies; blend them into your green smoothie and you wont get stung.
- Nettle supplement powder; Dry the leaves and grind them up to make nettle powder to add to drinks.
- Eat nettles straight; while you are out and about you can roll up the leaves with your fingers and then just eat. This stops the nettles from stinging your mouth and throat.
- Nettle soup; make a simple soup with a onion, leek, carrot, potato with 500g nettle leaves and 1l of vegetable stock.
- Nettle juice; for an intense earthly shot of nettle juice the leaves and stalks. Don’t be concerned if the resulting juice is a brown-green colour. This is perfectly normal.
- Cooked nettle; steam or boil and consume just as you would spinach.
- Rub into skin, for relief from joint and muscular pains.
- Nettle pesto, replace the basil with nettles and grind well for an earthy nutty pesto.
Benefits of Nettles
- Blood purifier; nettle is an excellent blood purifier due to its alkaline mineral content (silicon and iron). Nettles are very alkaline and can dissolve acidic waste while also have diuretic properties to help flush and cleanse the blood. Also, nettle extract has been used in surgery and dental work to help with preventing bleeding.
- Heal eczema and acne skin conditions, the purification and antihistamine properties of nettles can help heal eczema and acne
- Bladder infections / urinary tract infections, nettles in several studies have been shown to help heal bladder infections. This could be due to the chemicals present in nettles and the effect they have on hormones. They have also been shown to affect prostate cells to such an extent to slow down the spread of prostate cancer. Nettle is also a diuretic and can help with the flow of urine.
- Joint pain and arthritis, nettles have anti-inflammatory properties that can help with joint problems such as arthritis and osteoporosis. They can be taken as a food to help with joints across the body (typically hands and spine) or the leaf can be rubbed in the affected area for relief.
- Hay fever, again the anti-inflammatory properties help to deal with the allergic reaction that causes misery for hay fever sufferers during a high pollen count. Also, they contain histamine and this has a long history of treating allergic reactions.
Disclaimer; if you are on any medication or pregnant please consult with your doctor about nettles as they may interfere with medication.
Updated : Video of the many uses of nettles.