Category Archives: Herbalist

Stinging Nettles: Incredible Wild Edible

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Meandering my way along the creek on my daily foraging walk, what should I spy but sun reflecting off of a patch of gorgeously spikey green leaves… Stinging Nettles!

I practically cackled with glee.
Forage basket already full of wild edibles, I eagerly shuffled rose hips, mint, dandelion flowers and greens to the side to make a prized spot for my new bounty.

Despite the fact that I left my trusty gloves behind on the kitchen counter I forged forward and reached in carefully to harvest the stinging foliage- a bit of pain is a small price to pay for a great dinner!

Many people would rather avoid an encounter with a stinging nettle, thinking of them as an annoyingly itchy weed, not as the deeeelicious gourmet wild edible they are!

Their loss.

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STINGING NETTLES are chock full of vital nutrients- carrying a rich bounty of vitamins A, K, several important B vitamins, Calcium, Magnesium, Manganese, Potassium, Phosphorus and loads of other beneficial minerals and phytonutrients… And BONUS: they actually taste good!

They remind me of a lighter, more delicate version of Spinach. So simple to prepare: you can have them ready to eat inside of minutes… (they are oh soooo good with pastured butter and a little bit of sea salt and pepper!)

Here’s one of my favorite Stinging Nettle Recipes:

Stinging Nettle Omelette
3 eggs
2 cups Tender Stinging Nettle Stems and Leaves (freshly collected if possible)
1/2 roughly chopped Shallot
1 tbs pastured butter
1 cup water
Sea Salt (to taste)
Pepper (to taste)

What to do:
-In a small sauce pan add water and nettles.
-Bring to low boil for 10-15 minutes. (Add more water as necessary.)

-Drain and save the nettles to the side.

NOTE: to retain the nutrients that would otherwise be lost in the cooking fluid, you can reserve this liquid to add to your soups and stocks.

-Chop the nettles finely.
-Beat the eggs and stir in the nettles.
-Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
-melt butter in a small skillet.
– pour in egg/nettle mix and cook for 2-3 minutes over medium heat, until partially set.
– flip with spatula (or if you’re fancy, flip with the skillet)
-cook for another 1-2 minutes
-reduce heat to low, continue cooking another 1-3 minutes (to desired doneness).
– DEVOUR!

Where and how to Harvest Stinging Nettles

You’ll usually find Stinging Nettles all over the US in nitrogen rich soil, so look near the edges of fields, where cattle graze, or (conveniently for us) human houses and gardens…

Harvest when they are young and small- at under 1 ft tall they are usually pretty tender. The tiny spines will loose all their sting after a good boil or sautee in butter- all the better for you to dig in… YUM!

(Note: you might want gloves to harvest them)

Wild Rose Hip Tea

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There is an abundance of amazingly delicious and nutritious wild foods directly outside your back door. One of my favorites is wild (or even domestic) rose hips. You can make jam, jelly, syrup or just a simple tea out of these lovely “rose berries”.

A rose hip forms after a rose has been successfully pollinated. Gradually the bulb underneath the flower swells and turns into a bright red or orange fruit with a thin layer of pulp surrounding the seeds and fine hairs of the core. After the first frosts, the pulp becomes slightly soft, sweet and fruity- and enormously rich in vitamin C. When German submarines interfered with citrus shipments to England during World War II, the British turned instead to Rose Hips as their source of this vital vitamin.

Rose Hip Tea is my favorite form of this lovely wild food. It’s deliciously refreshing and packed with vitamins and minerals. I love it as a wonderful wintertime pick-me-up anddrink it just about daily throughout the colder months.

Making tea from fresh hips:

1. Place your (washed) rose hips into a small pot and cover with water.
2. Bring the water to a boil for 3-5 minutes. (Depending on strength tea desired).
3. Turn off the heat and use the back of a spoon to smash open each rose hip.
4. Let them steep in the water for up to 20 minutes.
5. Turn the burner back on to rewarm your tea. Pour your delectable beverage through a coffee filter into your waiting mug.
6. Enjoy your sweet and fruity delight!

Prepping the Rose Hips for storage, making tea from dried hips:
1. Harvest rose hips sometime after the first frost of the year (it’s wise to use protective gloves, since their thorns can really cut you up!)
2. Dehydrate them either in a dehydrator or the sun.
3. Grind hips in food processor into a rough consistency to help separate the outside skin and pulp from the fine inside hairs. Do not over-grind, as this will make it difficult to sieve out the pulp from the hairs in the next step.
4. Tip your rose hips into a metal sieve, and gently shake back and forth to remove the hairs. They should all easily fall through, leaving you with just the skin/dried pulp. You don’t need to remove the seeds as well- unless you have more time than you know what to do with! NOTE: these hairs used to be used to make itching powder, so this is a necessary step!
5. Store for use as tea (or for making jelly or syrup!) in an airtight container. Use a tea ball or small cheesecloth bag to brew your tea. Let it boil for 5-7 minutes depending on strength desired. Let them steep in water for 20 minutes.

Yum!

Wild Rocket

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On a Wild Rocket Ride

Hanging out with other international travelers broadens your world a little bit each time. I’ve been missing my dear new friends, the very fashionable british blogville babes Frankie @frankiestyling, Akeela @actuallyakeela and Katie @katieantoniou. So I thought I a post on a theme that they inspired would be fitting.

We learned from our british blogville babes that the deliciously spicy greens that we were enjoying in Italy were not just plain Arugula (as we boring Americans label it) but should actually be referred to as “Rocket”. It didn’t take much to win me over for this name change. Personally, I think “Rocket” is a name much more in keeping with this crisp, spicy, slightly bitter green that helps any salad have that extra oomph of flavor.

We had rocket with our meals nearly every day in the beautiful city of Bologna– as a large salad by itself, underneath the primi piatti as a delicious heaping base and as a simple side garnish to a caprese salad with creamy fresh mozzarella and a dribble of heavenly sweet balsamic vinegar (My new balsamic addiction is from Acetaia San Giacomo– a small farmstead producer of deep brown vinegar with a rich flavorful sweetness).

It’s also an easy choice for a celiac while traveling- salads in Italy are pretty much always whole foods ingredients and the dressings are simple and rarely prepackaged. (Rather unexpectedly, Italy is actually an awesome place for celiacs to explore the cuisine, but more on that in another post!)

There’s something so satisfying about that spicy crunch, the deep green of the spiky leaves, accompanied by their fresh clean scent as you raise the fork to your mouth. I always feel both supremely healthy and decadent at once when eating my fresh rocket salad. (Here’s a link to some mouth watering rocket salad recipe ideas).

I’ve been back in the states a week or so and I’ve already been missing my daily dose of “rocket”, so I decided to order out from one of our fine local restaurants Cafe Aroma (@cafearoma1) and feed my addiction. Behold (below): fresh wild rocket salad topped by goat cheese, candied pecans, strawberries, peaches and a balsamic vinegar dressing. Delizioso!

Rocket (Arugula) Salad with goat cheese, peaches, candied pecans and basalmic vinegar at Cafe Aroma in Idyllwild
Rocket (Arugula) Salad with goat cheese, peaches, candied pecans and balsamic vinegar at Cafe Aroma in Idyllwild

Transported back to Italy for the night, I leaned back in the teak chair on my back porch savoring a grass of red wine and my wild rocket salad. Next mission? Head over to the market tomorrow to stock up on some more rocket- hopefully the clerk won’t look at me too strange when I ask for it!

Rocket: A Quick Nutritional Overview:

Want to make a healthy, tasty salad? Walk right past that nutritionally bereft iceberg lettuce (I call it “crunchy water”) in the produce aisle and straight head over to the Rocket. Arugula (Rocket) is a nutritional powerhouse of a green. It has many vital phytochemicals, anti-oxidants, vitamins, and minerals that can immensely benefit your health.

  • Rocket is abundant source of phytochemicals such as indoles, thiocyanates, sulforaphane and iso¬≠thiocyanates. Together these phytochemicals have been found to counter carcinogenic effects of estrogen. This helps protect against prostate, breast, cervical, colon, ovarian cancers by inhibiting cancer cell growth, and cytotoxic (killing) effects on cancer cells. In addition, the di-indolyl-methane (DIM) in this great green helps your immune system regulate itself properly and has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.
  • Rocket is also very good source of B complex vitamins such as folate, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), and pantothenic acid. These are essential for energy metabolism, and optimum cellular enzymatic functions. Folate in the diet is particularly critical as a common dietary supplement to help prevent neural tube defects in newborns. (Eat your greens, moms to be!)
  • Like spinach, rocket is an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of Beta Carotene). Vitamin A and flavonoid compounds in in green leafy vegetables help protect from skin, lung and oral cavity cancers. So, before you think about slathering on potentially chemical laden sunscreen to protect from skin cancer, make sure you build up your body’s own defenses first.
  • Fresh rocket leaves also contain good levels of vitamin C, a powerful, natural anti-oxidant. Foods rich in vitamin C help your body fight against infectious agents (boosting your immunity) and remove harmful, inflammatory free radicals from the body.
  • Arugula is also a good source of minerals, especially copper and iron. It has a mix of small amounts of some other essential minerals and electrolytes such as calcium, iron, potassium, manganese, and phosphorus, all of which play critical enzymatic, chemical and structural roles in the body.

Whew! All in all, that’s pretty good for a small spiky green leaf!