I first discovered nettle seeds a few years ago and have been hooked ever since!
Nettle season is here now, the hedgerows and parks are full of nettles, with lush verdant tendrils of nettle seeds just ready for harvesting!
One of the many things I love about foraging is the fact that different plants are available throughout the year and that different parts of the plants can be harvested at different times.
Nettle is one of those plants! Lush new growth in the spring is perfect for pestos, teas and tinctures, with the vibrancy of spring and its cleansing properties after a long winter.
In late summer, the leaves tend to be tougher, but that's when the seeds appear and nettle seeds have more benefits than the leaves!
Nettle seeds will give you an energy boost like nothing else! If you have lost your zest for life, feeling run down, tired all the time and fed up, then you need nettle seeds!
I have first hand experience of eating 2 teaspoons of fresh nettle seeds and literally buzzing about like a blue arsed fly, being super productive, doing everything on my to do list and loads more, but the downside was I was still awake at 1am!!
So be warned, nettle seeds are potent, especially the fresh seeds, so go easy! The good news is that dried nettle seeds have the same effect but in a gentler way so shouldn't keep you awake at night!
So the benefits are many, nettle seeds support the adrenals, liver, and kidney function. They strengthen skin, hair and nails, are packed with iron, vit C, essential fatty acids, strengthen the blood and are excellent for anaemia. They are incredibly nutrient dense and contain a wide array of vitamins, minerals and polyphenols!
So to state the obvious, nettles are jaggy, they will sting you, so wear gloves when you collect them and take a pair of scissors. It's easier just to cut the nettles and then remove the seeds when you get home.
An interesting fact, there are male and female nettle plants! The seeds grow on the female plants, you are looking for vibrant green tendrils, like my photo. Some nettle seeds are pale and pathetic so don't pick those ones!
When you come home with your bag full of nettles, spread them out and leave them for a few hours for any wee bugs to escape.
Then wearing your gloves, use a pair of scissors to snip the seeds into a bowl, see my photo!
Put the stalks and leaves in your compost bin.
Now you have to dry them. I use my dehydrator set at 40C, and it takes approximately 15 hours.
You can also just dry them in your oven overnight with just the pilot light on or spread them out in a sunny windowsill.
It is essential to make sure they are completely dry before you store them or they will be susceptible to mould.
Then put the seeds into a sieve over a large bowl and literally scrunch them, the seeds will fall through into the bowl and the fibrous stuff will be left in the sieve.
Then just shake the sieve to make sure you have all the precious seeds.
Store in a jar and use them liberally in salads, soups, smoothies and breads!
You can also lightly toast the seeds and use them like poppy seeds.
I make a killer seasoning with mine which I will share in a separate post!
So what are you waiting for, go and find your gardening gloves, a pair of scissors and a bag, and go find some nettle seeds! The fresh air and exercise will benefit body and soul. Connecting with nature is one of life's simple pleasures and foraging is just the best fun, food for free, and the best food, not sprayed with pesticides, just growing wild as nature intended!
What's not to love....?
Been out gathering dandelions and having all sorts of fun with the flowers!
Thought I'd share my recipes for Dandelion Flower Tempura & Dandelion Vegan Mayo!
Both delicious and just using the dandelion flowers! Dandelions grow wild everywhere and most of us just ignore them as weeds when they are edible & highly nutritious!
Got the idea for the dandelion mayo from a foraging group so made a vegan version with fermented garlic and fermented mustard but you can use normal garlic and mustard. Its really important to use the milk and oil at room temp. If you use milk straight from the fridge, it won't emulsify properly! Also use an unsweetened plant milk, I used organic soya. I could have used more dandelion petals and will use more next time I make it!
Dandelion Vegan Mayo
Simply add the milk, oil, dandelion petals, salt, garlic and mustard to a jug and blitz it using a hand blender until it thickens. Then add the lemon juice and maple syrup and blend again. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Store in fridge for around 4 or 5 days.
I made dandelion flower tempura to serve with my mayo, this was inspired by my most knowledgable friend Vicky @Thelittleforagerskitchen
Use sparkling water straight from the fridge, it results in a lighter, crispier batter and also don't overmix it.
Dandelion Flower Tempura
Just mix together the dry ingredients then whisk in a cup of cold sparkling water.
I just dipped the flowers in the batter then deep fried them in hot sunflower oil for a few minutes until nicely browned.
I have discovered that I am very good at growing nettles! Apparently nettles like a nitrogen rich soil and they are very prolific in my raised beds so I have decided that rather than dig them all up, I would eat them!
Nettles have been eaten in many cultures around the world and used for their medicinal properties, and my goodness, after doing some research there doesn't seem to be much nettles can't help with!
I won't go into detail here, suffice to say nettles have extraordinary nutritional value, packed with A, C and B vitamins.
According to Francois Couplan the French ethnobotanist, nettles have three times more iron than spinach, seven times more vitamin C than oranges, calcium rivalling that of cheese and a protein content on a par with soya beans.
In effect, nettle has 3 times more nutrient density than anything you would buy in the shops, and it grows literally everywhere for free!
Best eaten in spring, although it can be harvested from shady areas later in the summer, and long associated with health and vitality, nettle leaves can be steamed, dried, used in soup, teas, used like spinach and blitzed into this fabulous pesto recipe!
And better still later in the summer when the leaves aren't so vibrant the seeds can be harvested, dried and used all year round as a pick me up and nutrient boost!
There is nutrient dense food literally under our noses and most of us either ignore it or destroy it! Well not me, I am harnessing the awesome power of nature and reaping the benefits!
There is no time like now to support our immune system, and no better way of increasing diversity in our gut microbiome by eating seasonally foraged greens!
I am stating the obvious here but nettles will sting you so wear gloves and take a pair of scissors to snip the tops of the nettles. Don't pick any of the older leaves just the young growth at the top. Also pick away from traffic pollution, grass verges or areas likely to have been sprayed with chemicals, and avoid nettles at dog level which may well have been peed on!
So this pesto recipe is vegan, nutritional yeast flakes and lemon juice replace the cheese, nuts and seeds provide protein and fibre and olive oil gives a good dose of omega 3. Feel free to mix up the types of nuts and seeds you use, according to what you have available. Hazelnuts, brazil nuts, walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, linseeds and sesame seeds all work well.
I added the zest of a lemon too since the zest contains loads of polyphenols, vitamins and minerals, which our gut bacteria love, and most folks throw it away
Here is the recipe
So I am having the best time wandering around the garden and our local park looking for wild edibles to forage!
Wild foraged foods are one of the best ways of increasing diversity in the gut, our gut microbes love the variety and exceptionally high amounts of vitamins, antioxidants and polyphenols!
I am currently loving dandelion flowers which grow everywhere and have a long flowering season so no need to rush out before they all disappear! They will be around for months!
I have to admit I am not a fan of dandelion leaves, they are just too bitter for me to enjoy but the flowers are another thing altogether! And it turns out they have way more polyphenols and antioxidants than the leaves or roots!
They have anti-inflammatory properties, are diuretic, increase bile production so benefit digestion too and they are protective against cancer by interrupting tumour growth so plenty of reasons to eat them!
They are a fairly invasive plant and so many people spray them and treat the grass with pesticides which is not what you want to be doing,
If you can't beat them, eat them.....
If you are foraging dandelion flowers, pick them away from roadsides where they are likely to have been sprayed with pesticides, dog pee and traffic fumes! Also dandelion flowers are a great source of pollen for the bees so pick from densely populated areas and leave plenty for our insect friends.
So here is a great recipe which you can adapt to suit your taste, the key ingredient is dandelion flowers and you will need around 150g of them which is quite a lot! I used a couple of eating apples, dried figs and a handful of goji berries, some freshly zested ginger and turmeric and the zest of a lime, organic apple cider vinegar and some organic sugar. Oh and a couple of bay leaves because I have loads of them!
You could use cooking apples, dates, raisins, orange or lemon zest and any fresh herbs you have available!
So here is the basic recipe, I cut down the amount of sugar to 65g since the figs and apples add sweetness but feel free to increase it if you want a sweeter chutney.
I don't really know if this is a Chutney or a Relish so I'm just calling it a chutney, its cooked in apple cider vinegar and has fruit in it!
Wash the dandelion flowers and remove the stalks but leave the green bit, although its a bit bitter the sugar in the recipe masks it so just remove any straggly green bits.
150g dandelion flowers, washed
2 eating apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 medium white onion, chopped
80g dried figs or raisins
1/4 cup of goji berries (optional)
1 tablespoon finely zested or grated ginger
1 tablespoon finely grated turmeric or 1tsp turmeric powder
zest of a lime
65g to 100g brown sugar
1 tsp salt
2 bay leaves
200mls apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
Simply add all the ingredients to a medium sized pot, bring to the boil then simmer gently for 30 minutes.
Leave to cool then transfer to glass jars and store in the fridge.
Enjoy with crackers and cheese, on sourdough avo toast, on a sandwich, wrap, baked potato or with any hot dish or salad
🍃 Health educator🍃