I remember when I was a boy, my father telling me about the use of Stinging Nettles back in Northern Ireland when he was younger, and how they were interesting to him because if you did not grasp them hard, they would sting – but if you firmly and strongly put your hands around the leaves and stem, there would be no sting.
I think there was also some attempt at a lesson to my dad’s description – that when embarking on any interest or research, one should strongly and with much effort, grasp the subject; otherwise you could get stung if you used little effort and went at something halfheartedly.
He also mentioned to me that Stinging Nettles might be a “cure for whatever ails you.” But in Canada, I have no recollection of my dad ever harvesting nettles and making any teas or preparing them as food. I do recall though finding them in fields, and feeling their sting on my legs when trying to walk through a bunch of nettles.
Nettles In My Garden
There is a small vegetable garden here at the new house located near Keratea in Greece. In the garden, there are a variety of herbs including basil, stinging nettle, mint, and other things I have not yet identified. Most that know me know I have a strong interest in herbs and their uses, both traditional health and as ways to make food tastes better.
The patch of nettles is quite large, and I’ll probably need to thin it out drastically over the next little while to carry through with my plans of growing other vegetables in the garden. Today, I decided to start by brewing my first cup of nettle tea. Of course, I did some research – I had no clue as to what ratios of water and nettle leaves to use and it turns out, there are a variety of recipes available.
So, I just made my own up. Most of the recipes suggest adding a sweetener such as honey, but I thought I’d taste it first to see what it was like, unsweetened.
Oh Nettles, Where Is Thy Sting?
While I’m curious about my father’s description about grasping nettles firmly enough and not feeling their sting, I decided that today was not the day for me to experiment with that. Why bother when I brought several pairs of work gloves with me?
Perhaps a bit overkill for harvesting nettles, but they worked fine and were handy to me at the time. I went out with the work gloves and armed with a pair of scissors and started cutting a few stems into a colander. The leaves and stems were then thoroughly washed, and enough leaves were cut away to pack into about 2 cups.
And there was no sting.
Preparing The Tea
I filled a small steel 4 cup tea pot, brought the water to a boil, and then simmered for about 15 minutes.
I was impressed with the green colour of the tea! A much deeper green than “oolong green tea” while all the photos I have seen purportedly of nettle tea show a brownish looking appearance. Perhaps the difference is that I used fresh leaves and the others used dried nettle leaves.
As mentioned, most seem to suggest sweetening the tea – but I found it quite pleasant to the taste without any sweetener. Perhaps honey might add an additional dimension, but for now, it was fine unsweetened and I’ve enjoyed two cups of it.
Does Nettle Tea Have Health Benefits?
My father claimed it would cure whatever “ailed you” – and indeed, there does appear to be some evidences for regularly consuming nettle tea. I personally don’t have any major health issues that I know of other than some aging related things like sore knees once in a while, needing glasses to read, and a bit of a receding hair line. I’m not expecting any miracles in reversing any of this, but if I notice any big differences after several days (I’ve enough in the garden to drink this every day), I’ll definitely update my post.
But apparently, nettles are a superb source of minerals, antioxidants, vitamins, and a huge list of healthy phenolic compounds. Some claim that consuming nettles supports eye health, may improve cardiovascular conditions, can assist with allergies (I do get pollen related allergy symptoms in the spring but Quercitin has helped with that), and may reduce inflammation and pain. Some swear by it for liver health as well.
Personally, I just enjoy experimenting and trying things – and if there are health benefits, that’s great! Apparently nettle leaves are often eaten whole after some cooking – which inactivates the substance in the trichomes on the leaves and stems that causes the stinging sensation. It’s not uncommon here in Greece for people to go find “weeds” like Vlita (Amaranth greens) and cook them up into a healthy and tasty side dish – so perhaps I’ll give that a try with the nettles, as well. Add a little vinegar and olive oil.
But, there’s a lot of other herbs and “stuff” in this garden that I want to try as well!
Have you ever tried nettle tea or used it for any therapeutic reasons? I’d love to know about it – feel free to leave a comment, below!