Thursday, July 5, 2012

Nettle Tea

The farm has much to offer, in addition to the annual vegetables we plant every year. Around the periphery of the farm we have many wild edible plants that nature provides without us lifting a finger. One of these precious gifts is nettle.  Like many wild plants, nettle can be seen as both good and bad. Another name for it is Seven-Minute Itch. However it would be more appropriate if it was called “Seven Minute Sting” instead!  Nettle is covered in small hairs that contain a chemical that causes a stinging sensation and red rash. Interestingly, dock often grows in the same places as nettle, and dock is a natural antidote. Just bruise the leaf and rub the juice on the nettle sting. The sting feels worse on hot humid days.
The Rodale Herb Book describes nettle as, “a beast with a heart of gold.” According to the University of Maryland website, when nettle comes in contact with a painful area of the body, it can actually decrease the original pain by reducing levels of inflammatory chemicals in the body, and by interfering with the way the body transmits pain signals.  This is why is it is used to relieve the pain of rheumatism. 
The stinging qualities of nettle disappear when the plant is cooked or dried.  Nettle’s biggest claim to fame is it is extremely rich in iron.  According to, the warm tea is used for asthma, hay fever, allergies, colds, fever, flu, mucous in the lungs, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, various hemorrhages, urinary infections, regulating blood sugar and intestinal problems.
This year CSA shareholder Sarah Punderson is a working share member who is experimenting with various added value products that we can make from the farm. One of these products is nettle tea. Earlier this spring, before the CSA even started, she foraged around the farm and harvested nettle leaves. She then dried it, cleaned it, bagged it, and now it is ready to sell to you!
Bags of dried nettle tea are now being sold at the CSA pick up for $4 each. Use the tea just as you would any loose-leave tea:  put dried leaves in a tea ball or strainer, and soak in hot water for a few minutes. Add honey if you prefer a sweeter flavor. It tastes similar to green tea.

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