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A healthy “weed” for the kitchen

Gardeners tend to dislike nettles because they are so difficult to get rid of. But you can pull them out, especially in spring and after a good shower of rain, or keep them under control by regularly hacking off the growth tips. And, of course, you can use fresh young nettles in the kitchen. “Stinging nettles can add their herby, slightly nutty flavour to many dishes. They also have health benefits: the leaves and stalks contain much more vitamin C and provitamin A, as well as calcium, magnesium, iron and phosphorus than spinach. They also contain secondary phytochemicals and more plant proteins,” comments nutritionist Harald Seitz.

Cooking with nettles

The flavours and nutrients are best preserved if the leaves are eaten cold – in salads for example, but also in pestos, dips and spreads. By contrast with many other wild greens, nettles can be successfully cooked. Prepare them like spinach and combine them with eggs, potatoes, fish or meat. Or chop them finely and add them to soups, to quiche fillings, to pancake mixture or pasta dough.

Harvesting and drying nettles

If your garden is cursed, or blessed, with a lot of nettles, why not dry them and use them as a tea. Or you could blanche them and freeze them or preserve them in oil or vinegar.

When you start cooking with nettles, use them sparingly at first, because the intensive flavour and the effect on your system take getting used to. With their high fibre content, nettles quickly make you feel full, at the same time they are diuretic and are often recommended as a remedy for bladder infections.

If you want to cook with nettles, but you don’t have a garden, then you could forage them from the wild. Take care to choose a foraging site that is far from busy roads and well-used pathways.

Source: Eva Neumann, www.aid.de