Tuesday, April 01, 2008

It’s that time again – nettle season!

Why get so excited about an obnoxious, invasive and painful weed? Because it’s tasty, healthy and ever-so-useful. Here’s what Euell Gibbons had to say about nettles in Stalking the Healthful Herbs:
“Unlike many health foods, nettle greens are really good, as well as being good for you.In addition to their good taste, nettles are rich in vitamins A and C, amazingly high in protein, filled with chlorophyll, and probably exceedingly rich in many of the essential trace minerals.
No grazing animal will eat a live nettle, but when nettles are mowed and dried, all kinds of livestock eat them avidly and thrive on them. Horses get shinier coats and improve in health when fed dried nettles. Cows give more and richer milk when fed on nettle hay. Hens lay more eggs when powdered nettle leaves are added to their mash, and these eggs actually have a higher food value. Even the manure from nettle-fed animals is improved, and makes better fertilizer.
Nettles furnish one of the most valuable of all plant substances to use as a mulch in your garden, or to add to your compost pile. Having approximately seven percent nitrogen, figured on a dry-weight basis, this plant is richer in this essential nutrient than many commercial fertilizers.”

From the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society:
“Nettle leaf has a long history of folk use. Nettle greens are wonderfully nutritious, containing large portions of minerals, vitamins A and C, chlorophyll, and protein. Nettle leaf has the ability to increase the production of urine and to increase the efficiency of liver and kidney function. It is used for anemia, has shown antiallergenic properties in hay fever, is taken for urinary problems such as cystitis and stones, and because it increases the excretion of uric acid, it is also used for arthritis and rheumatism. In Europe, nettle rhizomes are used to reduce the inflammation and improve the painful urination that can be part of non-cancerous prostate enlargement. This plant is quite safe. No side effects or contraindications have been reported for nettle products. Nettle leaf is considered to be safe during pregnancy.
Nettle is commonly used as fresh leaf (must be cooked to deactivate the sting), dried leaf, tea, tincture, capsule, tablet and ointment. I like to use nettle leaves in a number of ways. A particular favorite is as a mixture of chopped and lightly steamed nettle leaf, ricotta cheese, tofu and/or egg, and seasonings which I use as a layer in a lasagna dish or use to fill pasta such as manicotti. Nettle leaves are a tasty addition to some soups and stews and can be added to other cooked greens such as spinach, collards, or kale. In the summer, I make sun tea using fresh nettle leaves and fresh mint leaves - adding a touch of lemon makes a refreshing tea. I also dry nettle leaves and use them for tea, in soups, or as a substitute for parsley. Freezing nettles works well for use during the winter months. I chop the fresh leaves and then lightly steam before freezing. Frozen nettle is easily added to soups and stews or cooked as a green. And then there is the tincture I make with the fresh (or dried) leaves and use as a tonic. Oh, by the way, I have read that dried nettle leaf is also useful as animal feed.”

Some harvesting tips from Botanical.com:
"When the herb is collected for drying, it should be gathered only on a fine day, in the morning, when the sun has dried off the dew. Cut off just above the root, rejecting any stained or insect-eaten leaves, and tie in bunches, about six to ten in a bunch, spread out fanwise, so that the air can penetrate freely to all parts.
Hang the bunches over strings. If dried in the open, keep them in half-shade and bring indoors before there is any risk of damp from dew or rain. If dried indoors, hang up in a sunny room, and failing sun, in a well-ventilated room by artificial heat. Care must be taken that the window be left open by day so that there is a free current of air and the moisture-laden, warm air may escape. The bunches should be of uniform size and length, to facilitate packing when dry, and when quite dry and crisp must be packed away at once in airtight boxes or tins, otherwise moisture will be reabsorbed from the air."
At Seven Trees, we prefer nettles fresh-picked and steamed, dried for tea, and best of all...in beer! Sometime in the next couple weeks, we’ll be starting a batch of our notorious nettle braggot, a mixture of nettles, barley malt, honey, hops, water & yeast. It tastes rather herbal, but interesting, and adds a bit of a warm flush to the beverage experience....We’ll share the recipe on brewing day.

Here is the garage, with roof on. Tomorrow the slab will be poured.


Milking log:

Stella is consistently giving 3 quarts, sometimes a bit more, after being separated from Doug 4-5 hours. She's getting better about let down, which means the cream content is getting better too. This weekend we hope to try making sour cream and maybe some kind of soft cheese.


Jannette said...

Garage looks great! I am trying to get my bearings, is the garage where the garden was last year? HHmmmmmooohhhh on the milk, as usual, wish I lived closer :(

Dani said...

It is where the brush and berries are along the side fence line opposite there.

We wish you lived closed too! 8-)

Robbyn said...

I've always wanted to try nettles in something like a soup. I read so many things about their benefits...

We love your blog and are really sorry it's taken us so long to add you to our blogroll...we did in a recent post at our site; hope that's ok!

Seven Trees said...

I just harvested more nettles this morning, this time for drying. I wish we could have the fresh spring steamed nettles year-round, but then we wouldn't appreciate them as much.

Thanks for adding us to your blogroll Robbyn! Your blog is great, lots of good reading ;)

Anonymous said...

Two weeks ago I decided that I would befriend the huge numbers of nettles in my garden and yard rather than complain or contemplate the purchase of roundup.................I have since made a decent tea and steamed some (tonight so I can't tell you how they bare yet). I live on the south coast of new england and also have befriended Jerusalem artichokes and wild onions and find that every trip to the garden now brings pleasure instead of a silent gritting of the teeth and the internal comment "What the hell, now I have to weed that stuff again." I have not yet discovered a use for the choking wild morning glory........any suggestions? Patty in RI

Seven Trees said...

I wish there was a secret cure for morning glories! I thought they were only a curse of the PNW. So far the only method that's worked for me is to pull and pull and pull until they finally give up. Even roundup seems to encourage them. I don't think they even have a medicinal use besides making you vomit.

That is so cool that you've made peace with your other weeds though! I am jealous of your wild onions. Anything edible that just grows by itself is kind of magical.