I cannot believe I waited this long to try nettles. I’ve seen them at the farmers markets since I moved to Seattle almost almost 4 years ago now and I admit, the name scared me away. Stinging nettles. Stinging.
Sting. Ouch. Why would I try those? Now that I’ve spent some time with them though, I really enjoy them in a wide variety of ways. I’ve made risotto and soup, and lately I’ve been having a lot of nettle “tea”. I put tea in quotes because technically there are no actual tea leaves in this drink, so really, it is more of a tonic or tincture than anything else. But still, it’s excellent hot, possibly better cold, and is my new drink of choice when I don’t want water or something alcoholic these days.
Fresh nettles will sting you, but boiling them or drying them will cause the nettles to lose their sting. Even boiling as little as 3 minutes can take away the sting of nettles. Drying the nettles, however, takes a bit more time. I’ve been drying my nettles for about 12-15 hours. If you have a dehydrator, you can (carefully) arrange the nettles on the dehydrator and set it to low for about 8 hours. However, my antique gas stove has a pilot light that keeps the oven at a constant very low temperature. I’ve simply spread my nettles out on a cookie sheet and let them sit for 12-15 hours. When I return, they are perfectly dried.
Now, once I had dried nettles, I took a bunch of them, shoved them into a tea pot’s tea basket and poured hot water over them. Ten minutes later, I had tonic.
But wait, there’s more! I spoke to Foraged and Found at the Ballard Farmers Market last weekend and they suggested brewing the nettles even longer. In fact, they suggested letting the nettles steep overnight, thus infusing the tonic with even more of the nettles’ health benefits. So this past weekend, I put a bunch of dried nettles into my sun tea pot with some hot water and let them sit overnight. I strained out the nettles and refrigerated the tonic.
I’ve really been enjoying the tonic. It has a green tea type flavor, but brewing the tonic overnight gives it a bit of sweetness. I don’t usually like unsweetened tea, but I can drink this straight with no sweetener at all. Nettle tonic has mild diuretic properties as well as detoxifies the kidneys and has antiinflammatory properties. Nettles will be in season for at least another 6-8 weeks so stock up now. You can get a big bag of fresh nettles for $3 at the farmers markets or get a smaller bag of pre-dried nettles for the same price. Really, you’ll end up with just about the same amount of nettles either way as the nettles do lose volume when they are dried.
- Nettle and sorrel soup – creamy, green goodness The name doesn’t inspire confidence. Stinging nettles. Why would anyone...