We have about 6 inches (15cm) of snow on the ground here in Southeast Ireland (and in most of the country), but spring is starting to arrive in small steps. The tulips are inches above the ground and one has a flower bud nestled in the cocoon of leaves. Birds are singing, courting and looking for a good nest spot. The grass is starting to get long in the garden and the weeds are waking up. Early Spring (late winter) is a great time for a cup of hot tea while looking out at the rain (or snow), as well as a great time to thing about spring cleaning - of house and body!
So, to that end, I am going to share some information on a hated weed that springs up in the damp and exposed areas - The Stinging Nettle!
While you can use them fresh to good effect, it does take some time and care to avoid those stinging hairs. Very young nettles can be quite nice in a soup or even fried in a light tempura batter. But here I'll mostly talk about dried nettles, since that is how we sell them.
Dried Stinging Nettle looses its sting and instead brings great health benefits and amazing versatility. The flavour is similar to spinach, so I like a fairly light infusion. I also prefer it at room temperature (maybe that is strange, let me know how you like it best). You may find it nice with a little lemon and honey.
Nettle is very rich in iron, protein, potassium, and vitamins A, C, D & K. Nettles purify and nourish blood, build liver, kidney and adrenal functions.
They can also help with allergies, although it contains histamines, so best to check on your particular allergy before using it to relieve this ailment.
For women, Nettle can be effective in PMS relief and functions as a diuretic. It also is beneficial for pregnant women and increases milk supply in nursing mothers.
Nettle stimulates circulation, also good on these chilly early spring days. In addition, it relieves aches caused by arthritis, rheumatism and gout.
Nettle has antiseptic properties which help fight infections, so it can be helpful in fighting coughs, colds and congestion.
In addition to all of these wonderful health properties, Nettle tea can also be used in the garden. A strong nettle infusion can be sprayed on plants as an effective aphid deterrent, while being safe to the plants and animals in your garden.
So enjoy your spring and enjoy your nettles!