One of the sure signs of spring for me, besides more sunshine, is the sight of young nettle plants coming up.
Stinging nettle is one of my favourite wild plants to harvest. It is the first edible spring green that I like to forage for and it is delicious! Nettle season is now upon us here in the Okanagan, and folks at the Coast have been enjoying nettle for weeks already.
Nettle can be used much like you use spinach: cooked in soups, eggs, curries and stir-fries. It can be dried and saved to use as nettle infusion – a very healthy and nourishing drink – or you can also use it fresh and raw in smoothies.
It is full of vitamins, as well as minerals such as iron, calcium and magnesium. Since nettle contains vitamin C, which helps promote the absorption of iron, it can be a good support for someone with low iron. It is also thought to help detoxify our bodies, and springtime is a great time to do that!
Stinging nettle is a wonderful plant to introduce someone to foraging, as it is easy to identify. There is a very good reason why it is called “stinging” nettle, so be sure to use good gloves while harvesting and handling the fresh plants. You can see the sharp stinging “hairs” on the stem and underside of the leaves. These “stings” will disappear with cooking or, if you want to use nettle raw, then it needs to be well-blended to avoid feeling the stinging action in your mouth.
It is best to snip off the top of the young plant so that the plant will regrow; don’t pull plants and roots out. If you find a special nettle patch, it is also important to not over-harvest and to always leave some to go to seed so that it will reseed itself.
I am grateful for my Vitamix blender when making a smoothie with nettle, as it blends it so well that there is never a worry about feeling the “sting.” I like to use tongs to hold the young nettle tops while I give them a quick rinse and then drop a few in my blender (young stems with leaves attached) and whir them with a small amount of smoothie liquid or water. Then I simply add the typical smoothie ingredients that I would normally use, but have the added benefit of the fresh nettle.
One of the benefits of living in the Okanagan is the amazing amount of fruit we have available all summer. We love to pick fruit ourselves from local farms and orchards, and then freeze enough to keep us in smoothies all year round. We have wonderful growers here and many you-picks, and it is easy and economical to freeze these fruits ourselves.
Blend the young nettle tops with some water (or your chosen smoothie liquid: coconut milk, almond milk, milk, etc.), then add:
- 1 very ripe banana
- 4 Rancho Vignola dates
- 1 cup of your favourite frozen fruit
- 2 tbsp Rancho Vignola chia seeds
Add enough liquid to blend smoothly. This is a very basic smoothie, and then we like to add different “add-ins” like hemp or flax seeds, coconut, almonds or cashews. If you are new to nettle, just add a little bit the first time to see how you like it. It adds a very fresh flavour, which is SO nice at this time of year.
We all have our different favourite smoothies and smoothie add-ins. I love banana, strawberries, nettle, dates and chia. Another delicious combo is frozen peaches with ripe bananas, hemp and a tiny bit of dried Rancho Vignola ginger. Sometimes when we want a treat, we make cherry, banana, almond smoothies with a bit of coconut milk and a teaspoon of cocoa powder: yum!
We’d love to hear about your favourites! Please share your smoothie ideas with us here so that we can all learn some new recipes. And if you decide to go out and look for some stinging nettle, happy foraging!
~ Heather M.