20 Nettle Uses: A Forest Superfood

There’s likely no other wild plant that marks the beginning of spring growth than the wild nettle, urtica. Urtica is a forest superfood, full of vitamins and health benefits that can alleviate allergies, dry scalps and skin, and a long list of diseases that I’ll simply link you to here since Mother Earth News has it covered.

We all know that nettles come with an unpleasant sting if you brush up against the leaves. But with some care, a.k.a gloves and tongs, you can harvest wild nettles, steam them (this removes the sting in about 6 seconds), and have the foundation for one of the most nutritious greens you’ll ever have in your kitchen. Go forth and harvest these stingers, dry them or steam them up, puree them, bake them, or just put them in jars in your freezer for future use in the recipes I’ve collected below.

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1) Drying Nettles and the Basics: For starters, I want to link you to this great article on how to safely forage for nettles and also dry and store them. I’m a big believer in using all the naturally-edible natively-growing greens around you, rather than going to the store and buying greens grown elsewhere.

2) Nettle Beer: From what I’ve read, this is more like a wine. Easy to make, and quite tasty.

3) Nettle Chips: Move over kale! It’s time for us to embrace stinging nettle chips. These. Are. To. Die. For. (And I promise, you won’t die, you’ll just want more.)

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4) Stinging Nettle Fritters: These look incredibly delicious. I don’t have to say much more.

5) Stinging Nettle Mayonnaise: Want to add a bit of zing to your mayo? This is a recipe worth trying.

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6) Fermented Nettle Kimchi: We’re big kimchi makers and eaters. I just can’t wait to try this recipe this weekend. It’s right up our alley.

7) Black Strap Nettle Syrup: This ought to cure what ails you, yet another recipe that I know will come in handy for my family as we grow ever-closer to living off our land.

8) Wild Nettle Mini-Cakes With Strawberry Lemon Icing: If the name of this recipe doesn’t have your mouth watering, just check out the photos from this beautiful blog.

9) Nettle Recipes For Hair, Skin, & Nails: If you’re looking for a deep infusion of green to help bring you back into balance while providing nutrients for your hair, skin, and nails? This article is for you.

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10) Portable Allergy Tonic: Have troubles with seasonal allergies? This tonic promises relief.

11) Nettle Vinegar: This one caught my attention because we make all our own vinegars. Adding nettles makes a lot of sense, given their health benefits.

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12) Nettle and Lemon Cake with Blackberries and Lemon Icing: If you’re planning a birthday party for a child, this might be a great way to sneak in some greens! The lemon icing adds just the right zing to match the nettle color.

13) Wild Onion and Nettle Soup: We make this every spring and freeze as much as we can. This soup is just about as close as you’ll ever come to “drinking spring.”

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14) Fermented Nettle Tea: If you’re into all things fermented, why not nettles? Kombucha, move over!

15) Lentil and Nettle Curry: Seeing as Nepal is covered with nettles in spring, this dhal curry with nettles didn’t surprise me.

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16) Pizza with Garlic Cream and Nettles: OMG, you guys! This is so delectable, you have to try it. Just replace your hankering for basil with nettles here and you’ll want to repeat this recipe every week. I now freeze our excess-harvested nettles so we can have this all year round.

17) Nettle Crisps: Ok, so these are the same as the nettle chips, but it doesn’t hurt to try a slightly different recipe.

18) Nettlekopita: My friend, Rebecca, who is an amazing cook, makes this every spring and so I know it’s delicious. I just need to get over my sense that it’s time-consuming to make, because it doesn’t look like it from this recipe. My husband is Greek and I’d love to try this out on him.

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19) Wild Nettle Beer: I couldn’t resist linking you to another great recipe for a nettle home brew. This one was so well thought-out, I think a novice could make it.

20) Nettle Wine: I’m calling this one wine because, reportedly, it tastes more like wine. I love this article as it really spells things out clearly.

On a final note, I wanted to link you to a fascinating article, now that you’ve immersed yourself in mouth-watering nettlemania. It appears nettles have been used for millennia. Around 800 BC, nettles were used to make a silk-like fabric. Like flax, nettles were employed for their strong fibers for use in cloth-making. What uses have you come up with for this underdog wild stinging plant? We’re in awe of its properties and many uses, and excited to learn more about this superfood’s talents. Share what you know, and we’ll add it to the list.

Leftover Wine And Fruit Scrap Vinegar

Wine aficionados claim that a bottle of wine should be consumed within 36 hours before the perishable liquid inside starts to deteriorate. Once oxygen is introduced, the wine begins to change. Recorking or sucking the air out of it will only deter the deterioration by a matter of hours. Putting the bottle in the refrigerator might help keep it for up to a week, but after that, it’s time to make wine vinegar!

Vinegars are so easy to make, it’s almost a crime to not make them with your leftovers. In a glass jar combine 2 cups of leftover red wine with a cup of distilled water and some “mother” from a previous organic vinegar you’ve finished and cover the jar with cheese cloth or a clean piece of cotton cloth so air can get in and dust stays out.

“Mother?” You ask.

If you look closely at the contents of the bottles above, you’ll find my 3 mothers. They’re from blackberry, apple, and pear vinegars, respectively, and I’ve been hanging on to them so I can use them as a starter for the next vinegars I make. A vinegar’s mother is a gelatinous mass that usually sits at the bottom of your vinegar bottle. It’s a sign that your vinegar is likely organic because it houses a lovely live culture. The mother is actually a type of acetic acid-producing bacteria called “acetobacter” and it consumes the alcohol in your wine, converting it into delicious vinegar.

If you don’t have a mother with which to start your homemade vinegar, you can find some in the bottom of a jar of Bragg’s Unfiltered Raw Organic Apple Cider Vinegar. Until I started making my own apple cider vinegar, this stuff was an essential ingredient in our home. It’ll cure you of any cold and is an excellent rinse for your hair. Save that mother and you’re ready to start making your own vinegars.

What about fruit vinegar? I make my own throughout the year from scrap apple peels and cores when making pies and apple sauce. Blackberries from our vines also make an incredibly delicious vinegar. Simply put your fruit scraps in a jar with some water and a “mother” from another vinegar and cover with cloth so the vinegar can breathe.

If you get mold because your fruit is on the surface and exposed to air, take the offending mold out and make sure your fruit is totally submerged in the water/mother mixture. Check on your jars periodically, but it’ll take a few weeks for the fermentation and culture to reach its peak. I always go by feel. After about a month I run the vinegar & fruit mixture through a cheesecloth, separating out the fruit but I retain the mother and place it and the filtered vinegar into a pretty bottle and cork it. And as the vinegar ages, like me, it only gets better.

Vinegars make great gifts, so you can never make too many bottles! Do you make your own vinegars? Please share your thoughts and let us know what your favorite fruit or wine varieties are.

DIY Dishwasher Rinse Aid

What the heck is rinse aid and why do we need it? If you have hard water, you might want to get rid of the those residue spots left over by the drops of water on your glassware. A rinse aid has a surfactant in it that prevents your water from leaving droplets on your dishes. But you should know that many rinse aids have toxic ingredients that I doubt you’d want to have on any surface that holds your food and drink. I’ll quote Treehugger here to outline the ingredients in question:

 

  • Sodium tripolyphosphate: High concern for general ecotoxicity.
  • Methylchloroisothiazolinone: High concern. The US EPA reports the LC50 value is very toxic to aquatic life.
  • Antiredeposition agent: Moderate concern for cancer, respiratory effects, kidney and urinary effects, general systemic/organ effects; and some concern for chronic aquatic toxicity, skin irritation/allergies/damage.
  • Troclosene sodium, dihydrate: Moderate concern for chronic aquatic toxicity, acute aquatic toxicity, respiratory effects; some concern for general systemic/organ effects, developmental/endocrine/reproductive effects, cancer, kidney and urinary effects, nervous system effects, digestive system effects, skin irritation/allergies/damage, damage to vision.
  • Oxybenzone: Moderate concern for developmental/endocrine/reproductive effects.

 

It turns out, you might not even need rinse aid. If your water isn’t hard, the little droplets left over on your dishes won’t leave a residue on them. Test your water, or better yet, go without rinse aid for some time and see what happens. But first, if you have residue on your dishes and glassware, cut the amount of detergent you use by half. Chances are you’re using too much.

If you have hard water, I sympathize. Ours is, too. Want to save some money, still have spot-free dishes, and do the right thing for the environment at the same time? Try this secret ingredient in that little rinse aid spot near where the detergent goes:

White vinegar.

Distilled white vinegar as a rinse agent in your dishwasher will render your glassware shiny and streak-free. Photo © Liesl Clark

That’s all you need. Replace your rinse agent with vinegar and you’ll get the same if not better results. But a word of caution: if you have rubber parts in the slot where the rinse aid goes, don’t put the vinegar in there. Apparently, vinegar can corrode rubber. I know of some people who skip putting the vinegar in that special slot for the rinse aid and just put it in a small cup in the upper shelf so it can splash out over time. Either way, you’ll save a bundle, reduce your plastic footprint and keep chemicals off your plates and out of your gray water.

Distilled white vinegar to the rescue! Use this instead of expensive rinse agents. Photo © Liesl Clark

The interior of our dishwasher is metal and we’ve used vinegar now for over 3 years with no problems to the parts. I’m not sure how a plastic-interior dishwasher will take to vinegar in the reservoir and would love to hear from others who have used it.

We buy our white vinegar in bulk and then put the vinegar for our rinse aid in a plastic bottle that squirts.

Find a good squirt bottle to convert into your rinse aid dispenser. Photo © Liesl Clark

It’s stored under the sink right next to the dishwasher. You’ll likely find a good bottle in your own trash to reuse as your vinegar rinse aid dispenser, or simply reuse your rinse aid bottle.

Crystal clear dishes again. Photo © Liesl Clark