Posts tagged nettle
Ghee & Nettle crackers
Nettle & Ghee Crackers

Spring is here and I'm ready for nettles. They have yet to sprout (at least to my knowledge) in Montana, but I've been breaking out my ample supply of dried nettles and last years pickled harvest. Nettles are, in my opinion, a staple in any herbal cabinet. They are full of iron, vitamins and ease symptoms related to so many ailments. My first experience with them was slightly humorous as I had no idea what I was getting into. I was 18, working on a farm in Sweden with very little awareness of the medicinal component to plants. Emilia, the owner of the farm, asked if I wouldn't mind crushing up the dried nettle plants hanging in the loft of the barn to bag and sell in the shop. Emilia instructed me to wear gloves, insisting that the plants could sting, but I wasn't exactly sure what she meant by that. So I grabbed a pair of garden gloves and went to work, crushing the brittle plants between my hands. And yes, they stung - a lot! Throughout the next week, we spent hours bagging nettles and running them through a food processor to make nettle flour. From this point on, nettles had a big impact on me. I was infatuated with the taste and spent most of my breaks on the veranda with a cup of nettle tea warming my palms. 

Since then, my love for nettles has only grown. They are such a versatile plant in the kitchen and there are so many ways to incorporate them into nourishing meals. From pestos to baked goods, nettles can amp up the taste and healing aspect of what's on your plate. 

Enjoy these crackers with cheese, pesto, cucumbers or on their own! I like mine with goat cheese and a glass of rosé ;) I adapted this recipe from Molly Yeh's Buttery Cracker recipe from her book, Molly on the Range.  If you haven't checked that book out, I suggest you do. It's filled with unique recipes and beautiful photos. 

P.S. Expect a lot of nettle recipes in the coming months. I've got a ton of ideas brewin' in my mind.

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Ingredients 

1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbs dried nettles
1 tsp dried tulsi
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbs sugar
1/2 cup cold unsalted ghee (or butter)
1/3 cold water

Method

Preheat oven to 350º F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, mix flour, nettles, salt, sugar and baking powder. Add butter and doing this with your hands or a mixer, and combine until the butter is pea sized, slowly pouring the water as you mix. Do this until the mixture has come together and can be formed into a ball. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and roll out until it is 1/4 thick, dusting the dough with flour as needed. Once rolled out, cut out 2 inch rounds (Or squares! Or Triangles!), re-rolling any dough scraps. Place on lined baking sheets, about 1/2 inch apart. Bake until slightly brown, this will happen after about 20 minutes. Let cool on pan before eating. Store in an airtight container at room temp. 

Wild Maine Nettles
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Preserving Spring with Herbal Vinegars

The plants are here! Fi.Na.Ly. This past winter was long and brutal, but we have made it through to the other side and I for one, am pretty damn grateful. I grew up in New England and am no stranger to snow, but Montana is on another level.  I'm not exaggerating when I say that I didn't see a speck of grass from December to March. There were days when I felt as though I was losing my mind from being housebound for so long, but I somehow got ahold of myself and managed to make it to spring. 

In May, I made my way back to New England to pick up my car, teach some workshops and visit with friends and family. In my opinion, there are two good seasons in Maine: early Summer and Fall. Spring seems to be just an idea here as it often snows through April then will suddenly turn to hot and sticky Summer weather. June however, is the  exception. With all its rain and temperamental sunshine, "Junuary" is a very real thing and I love it. This type of weather permits me to be outdoors as long as I please while enjoying the lush greenery that is abundant this time of year. 

One thing that I've been lusting over recently is stinging nettle (urtica dioica).  I haven't had much success harvesting fresh ones in a few years but my friend, Ben was kind enough to let me in on the secret nettle patch behind his house in southern Maine this week. "Nettle is like a beast with a heart of gold," says the Rodale Herb Book, and is often considered something to be avoided due to its wicked sting. However, it should be noted that the sting can also do us some good! The practice of hitting the skin with fresh nettles is called urtication,  and is considered helpful for treating arthritis, inflammation and joint pain. I also just read an article about urtication as a sexual fetish which is brand new, very fascinating news to me. 

Stinging nettle is an incredibly nourishing plant that is a fantastic source of iron and provides relief from seasonal allergies. My former herb school teacher, David Hoffman once said, "when in doubt, use nettles". This is an herb that has a multitude of uses and is often recommended during pregnancy. It's also one of my favorite plants to cook with (nettle pesto anyone??) because of its rich, creamy flavor. The sting will leave the plant once it's boiled or held in vinegar, so there's no need to fret over that. Also, wear leather gloves and long pants (do you have leather pants? Good, wear those) when you're harvesting to avoid the sting.

One way to preserve nettles and other nutritious plants, is to steep them in vinegar. Not only does this keep the plants intact through the colder seasons, but you'll also get a rich herbal vinegar to put on salads, meats, soups or your body. Herbal vinegars have a long history of use with digestion, cold & flu relief, hair care, skin toners and foot soaks. Some people exclusively use vinegars in place of shampoo and by adding plants to your vinegars, you'll gain all those beautiful nutrients which can help ease dandruff, encourage hair growth and make your hair shine (see hair formula below).

When I'm making an herbal vinegar, or really any medicine, I typically don't have an exact formula. This is often called a "folk method" of medicine making as it's based on what you feel is right for that formula. It's part intuition and part common sense, in my opinion, and not as daunting as you may think. With the following recipes, I don't give exact measurements so I invite you to feel it out and see what works best for you. Fill the jar to the rim with your chosen herb (preferably fresh), then completely cover with the vinegar of your choice.  Also, keep in mind that you can snack on these plants once they have been steeping for a few weeks! I like to add some fresh mushrooms or carrots to my concoctions for later consumption. 

P.S. Please be mindful when harvesting in the wild. Do don't over harvest or deplete the area that you are in. You can read more about my views on this HERE . Just bear in mind that you never need as much as you think you do. 


Ingredients 

Fresh nettles
1 handful fresh cleavers
2 cups apple cider vinegar

Fresh nettles
6-8 slices reishi
2 cups apple cider vinegar

Put on gloves and cut up nettle leaves into a pint size jar, lightly pushing the leaves down every so often. Chop up cleavers - or reishi - and add to the jar. Cover with apple cider vinegar and cap tightly. Shake daily. Infuse for 1-6 weeks depending on taste preference. Keep herbs in vinegar or strain out with a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Store in a cool, dark spot. 

Vinegars will sometimes rust metal caps, so place a sheet of wax paper or cloth between the lid and the jar. Or use plastic lids. 

Other herb combinations

  • Rose petals, oranges, cinnamon sticks, champagne vinegar

  • Dill, sweet onions, garlic, white wine vinegar

  • Tarragon, rosemary, thyme, red wine vinegar

For hair care:
Fresh rosemary
Rose petals
Nettles
Calendula
Apple cider vinegar

Also try adding berries, stone fruits and seeds.