Spring Herbs to watch out for –
Nettles – Urtica Dioica
Spring is on its way, and soon we’ll see fresh green shoots sprouting up form the ground. Look out for nettle! Much maligned as a weed, but one of the most useful native herbs available to us.
The fresh green shoots can be harvested and used as a spring tonic, in a soup or a tea or juiced, and it is high in vitamin C.
All parts of the nettle plant can be used seasonally, so use the leaves in Spring, when they are tender and less fibrous, the seeds whenever they appear, and the roots in Spring and Autumn.
Nettle is a great blood tonic, its iron content make it useful for treating anaemia. It also reduces blood sugar levels and stimulates circulation, supporting the smaller blood vessels and helping lower blood pressure. It helps clear the blood of toxins and gently stimulates the kidneys. It is used to treat gout and arthritis, and also has an antihistamine effect, making it valuable in treating hayfever and allergies.
Some simple recipes using nettle leaves. The cooking and heat process will neutralise the sting. If in doubt, scald the leaves in boiling water for about 2 minutes.
To make nettle tea, pick some fresh nettle tops, and put in a teapot with boiling water. Allow to infuse for 15-20 mintes, then drink.
To make a simple nettle soup, soften 1-2 chopped onions in a frying pan with butter or olive oil, add a litre of vegetable stock, and several handfuls of fresh nettle tops. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, and then puree in a blender. You can add what you want to enhance the taste – spices, black pepper, potatoes, cream…..
Stuff a jar with fresh nettle tops and cover with apple cider vinegar. Seal the jar and keep in a cool shaded place for about 2-3 weeks, shaking the jar every couple of days. Strain the plant material from the apple cider vinegar and either drink a capful a day as a tonic, or use in salad dressings.
References : Hedgerow Medicine; Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal, 2014.