Stinging Nettle

Also known as Common Nettle (Urtica dioica)

Introduction
Nettle is collected early in the spring, when the leaves are rich in nutrients and the level of stinginess is at its minimum. The nettles are boiled to remove the stinginess and then dried for preservation.

In traditional Finnish folk medicine, nettle has been used to treat rheumatism, kidney stones and asthma; however, there is no confirmation of such health effects by modern medicine. What has been scientifically proven is that nettle does contain large doses of vitamin C, protein, iron and calcium, and that it is a diuretic (= increases the rate of urination).

Historically, nettle stems were used in Finland to create nettle paper and clothes fabric from sturdy nettle fiber. Nettle clothes have been found dating as far back as the iron ages, as based on archaeological findings. In fact, nettle and flax used to be the two most common clothes materials in Finland until cotton was introduced at a later date.

PhD in agriculture Toivo Rautavaara, a former Finnish plant researcher, popular scientific writer and advocate of a healthy lifestyle, stated in his book ‘Mihin kasvimme kelpaavat’ (Trans: “What are our plants good for”, 1st ed. 1942) that out of all green plants of Nordic origin, nettle is the healthiest, richest in nutrients and most important for consumption (at the time of writing).

Nutrients
Nettle contains large doses of vitamin C, protein, iron and calcium, with smaller amounts of β-Carotene, folic acid, potassium, magnesium and amino acids. Especially the presence of protein and calcium make this plant an ideal for vegetarian diets.

Usage and Handling
Nettle leaves are used like spinach in cooking, although many consider the taste of nettles to be milder and more pleasant. Nettle leaves are well-suited for soups, pancakes, breads and other savory pastries, (vegetable) stews and herbal teas.

Stinging nettle is a perennial plant well-known for its stinging hairs, which emit a liquid with acid qualities that is unpleasant or mildly painful on bare skin. For this reason, wearing gloves while picking nettles is essential, as the hairs are not strong enough to penetrate through. The stinginess of the plant disappears completely upon heating, boiling or drying – making the nettle leaves edible.

Recipes:
Nettle Crêpes

Naming in other languages:
Finnish: Nokkonen
Swedish: Brännässla
German: Große Brennnessel
Russian: Крапива двудомная
French: Grande ortie
Mandarin: 异株荨麻
Japanese: イラクサ
Korean: 쐐기풀

Sources:
http://www.hiisishop.com/collections/herbs-and-spices/products/dried-stinging-nettles
http://www.terveystuotekauppa.fi/page008.aspx
http://www.arctic-flavours.fi/fi/arktiset+aromit/yrtit/luonnonyrtit/nokkonen/
Rautavaara, T. (1976) Mihin kasvimme kelpaavat, WSOY, Juva.

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