Good to eat stinging nettles
Anyone who has brushed up against a stinging nettle plant will probably remember the burning experience. There is a reason for the protection, but many people don’t really think about it. The stinging is a protection mechanism against insects and animals because the plant is wonderfully healthy. It is a way for the plant to protect itself. The stinging, though, makes the plant one that is often overlooked and untapped, despite all the healthy benefits.
Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) plants have many health benefits. Nettles contain a large amount of vitamins A, C, D, E and K. This plant is also high in magnesium, calcium, iron and silicon, as well as trace elements that are needed for health. Stinging nettles are also recognized as being a good source of antioxidants, so it is a plant that is good for preventing or combating cancer and numerous other illnesses.
Urtica dioica has been used, for a very long time, for its medicinal properties. The high iron content has made this plant useful for the treatment of anemia and bleeding problems. In fact, it has also been used to strengthen and help women during their monthly cycle, to counter blood loss. The plant shows a lot of promise in use for treatment of urinary and prostate complaints, with few of the side effects associated with commonly used man-made medications.
The plant has even been used to treat gout, PMS, asthma, scurvy, arthritis high blood pressure and rheumatism.
Nettles are also great tasting when properly prepared. Foods made from these plants tend to be easy and fast to make. At the same time, this is a widely spread plant species. It is native to both Europe and North America, so there are seldom problems procuring it, especially along river and canal banks. There are few states or provinces where nettles can’t be found. Where they grow, they often do so in profusion, as well.
An example of a great tasting, simple, healthy and filling meal that can be made from this plant is cream of nettle soup. The young plants are collected, rinsed, chopped and made into soup, with milk or cream. Stinging nettles are suitable for home cooking or camp cooking, which increases the versatility, too. It has the added benefit of not being high in calories.
People might think that the collection of these plants would be very difficult. This isn’t the case, however. Gloves should be worn, but a paper sack and a pair of scissors is about all that is needed besides the gloves. The one problem the plants do have, though, is that as they mature, they fix silicon in the stems and leaves. This takes the form of small nodules. When cooked at this stage, the food rather takes on the consistency of food with a handful of sand added. The flavor is still good, but not many people like the gritty texture.
Still, it should be noted that heating or drying removes the stinging poison and renders it harmless. The key is just to collect them early in their growth.
The late Euell Gibbons, an expert in collecting, preparing and eating wild plants, felt that stinging nettles were one of the most neglected food sources. He actively encouraged people to try them, rather than discarding the idea out of hand. There is little doubt that this is a plant species that is even more healthy than it is flavorful, even though it is quite tasty.