Stinging Nettles and the big ouch!
Once upon a time I was a photo assistant for a rather famous, Swedish food photographer. Not that you can tell by the photos on this blog, a clear example of pure ineptitude and straight up laziness. Then again while I have The Man sitting at the table grumbling over the hostile take over of his iPhone and the delay in access to his plate, The Famous Photographer had a gaggle of 5 star cooks, a wife art director and a very clever assistant all ready to jump to it the minute the yelling ensued.
Photo assisting is a masochistic way of honing your skills, not unlike flagellating yourself. Sprinting after your “mentor” with twice your weight in equipment on your back, hours of sniffing deadly chemicals in the dark, berated at regular intervals, standing on your head so you can change the film in the camera while simultaneously holding a reflexer with your toes. Best of all you did it all for free. FOR FREE!
Why anyone would subject themselves to this now days,with the onslaught of digital photography, is a mystery to me. Back in the day there was only one way to become a master printer. You had to be taught by a master one-on-one. Now all you need is a quick tutorial in photoshop and off you go, well almost. Actually not really. Not at all, but that is what people think. So back then, you suffered it, promising that once you made it big you would be so cool to your assistant, knowing you probably wouldn’t.
However, if you kept your head down you learned a lot more than just photography. The one highlight of being an assistant is having access to life’s backstage. You get access to all manner of situations including master chef cook-off’s.
A few years ago the master chef’s of Skåne gathered together for an inspiration day. The idea was to come up with new recipes using a specific ingredient. That particular year it was Stinging Nettles. Suddenly this irritating little menace transformed into a one of the most versatile if not healthiest plants/herbs you can have the kitchen.
Spring is in the air which means nettle season is upon us. Depending on where you live they can be as close as your own back yard.
I use nettles through out the season, but the best are found in the spring when the plants are still young. All you need is a pair of rubber gloves and a pair of scissors. Staying away from the walking paths were dogs lick to wee, look for the young plants.
Once you get them home you can neutralize their sting by blanching (boiling) them for a approx. 30 sec. Don’t over cook them. It really isn’t necessary. Your nettles are now sting free.
If you happen to get stung just pour vinegar over the affected area. The bumps won’t go away, but the sting will.
The unadulterated sting
In some places people sting themselves with the nettles to relieve arthritis and inflammatory pain. Basically the chemical found in the nettles, the chemical that causes the reaction, is composed of formic acids, histamines, acetylchlorine and seratonin. Basically you are giving yourself a direct injection of natural pain relief. Research has shown that the rash increases blood flow, circulation and stimulates the lymph system. The seratonin and histamines work on the central nervous system, according to other research inhibits the cells that encourage inflammation and cartilage deterioration.
What’s a rash when you are suffering arthritis?
Nettles are also shown to beat prescription drugs when it comes to hay fever and other allergies. Freeze dried nettles are the most effective. There is something in the freeze drying process that activates and enhances the anti-allergenic component.
Nettles as they are, as a supplement, tincture etc. are all very good for you in general. They are very high in minerals and vitamins, in particular iron. You will get much, much more out of eating nettles than spinach. It also serves as a natural detox. It helps regulate the endocrine system bring hormonal balance to the body among other things.
In short it is a super plant.
Note: I am not expert, just well read. You should do your own research if you are taking medication you should check that the nettles don’t have an adverse affect on your medication.
You can harvest your own, dry it, freeze it, use it fresh.
Freeze dried capsules, tinctures, oils, capsule supplements.
Uses in the kitchen
As a basic herb.
Nettles have a rather mild flavor which makes them perfect for using in your every day cooking. Once you blanch or dry them you can use them in just about everything. Mashed potatoes, in your soups, pasta sauces, lasagna, on your new potatoes, in your salad…Anywhere you would use an herb or spinach.
Make a tea out of it. Steep the leaves for 2-3 minutes. Drink.
Make a soup out of it, similar to spinach soup. Or throw in a handful to any of your other soups.
I throw nettles into my grilled veggies and will even toss some into my BBQ sauces.
Substitute the basil with nettles for a milder pesto. Or add both the basil and the nettles.
JUST GET CREATIVE