Spring Tonic with a Sting to it !
As spring approaches, I can hardly contain my excitement for stinging nettle season. Every year, my friend Mandy and I venture into the wilds of Vancouver Island with her daughter to gather these prickly plants. It's become a cherished tradition for us, and we always find the best patches in the most remote areas.
Stinging nettle, or Urtica dioica, is a plant that grows all over the world. Despite its sting, it's incredibly healthy and has been used for centuries in traditional medicine. It's packed with vitamins A, C, and K, as well as calcium, iron, and potassium, and has antioxidant properties to protect against free radicals. Stinging nettle has been used to treat a variety of ailments like allergies, arthritis, and urinary tract infections.
One of the best ways to enjoy stinging nettle is to make it into tea. Just steep a handful of fresh or dried leaves in boiling water for a few minutes. The tea has an earthy flavor and can be enjoyed hot or cold with a touch of honey.
Stinging nettle is also a fantastic ingredient in cooking. It has a nutty, spinach-like taste that complements many dishes. You can use it in soups, stews, and sauces, or sauté it with garlic and olive oil. My personal favorite is using it to make pesto. Blanch the leaves, blend them with garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil, and voila! A bright green, flavorful pesto perfect for pasta, veggies, or dipping.
Foraging for stinging nettle can be daunting for beginners, but it's worth it. We wear gloves and long sleeves to avoid stings and clip the top few inches of the plant with scissors, leaving enough stem for regrowth. It's a calming and fulfilling experience that connects us to nature and our ancestors' traditional knowledge.
Harvesting stinging nettle also brings back fond memories of my grandmother making nettle soup in the spring. Foraging is a way to honor her and the traditions she passed down. I'm thrilled that spring is here, and stinging nettle is back on the menu.