Stinging nettle chimichurry
If you have spent any time in the wilderness, you have probably come across stinging nettle at some point. It’s hard to forget due to its persistent tingly qualities. Nettles contain hollow stinging hairs called trichomes which cover the stem as well as the undersides of nettle leaves. If you happen to come in contact with these hairs- simply by brushing against the plant, (or, if you’re like me, crashing your bike into a massive patch, legs and arms exposed), you will experience an unpleasant stinging sensation that lasts for hours.
Skin irritations aside, stinging nettle is a nutrient dense wild food.
What are the health benefits?
Stinging nettle is a nutritional superfood! High in vitamins A, C, K, as well as several B vitamins, nettle offers valuable immune support. Nettles are also a good source of calcium, iron and magnesium. High in silica, nettles will help support your hair, skin and nails. They are also a great source of quercetin, a powerful antioxidant that is beneficial to lung health.
When to collect nettles:
Spring is the perfect time to collect wild nettles (Urtica dioica). They are just starting to leaf out and the plant is tender and tasty! I have made this simple green sauce multiple times this week to eat on top of baked sweet potatoes or homemade turkey meatballs.
Foraging can be a fun activity to do in times of quarantine when you are trying to spend less time, (and energy) in the grocery store. A few tips on gathering wild nettles:
- You can find them along rivers and streams- nettles like riparian habitat.
- Don’t pick them when they are flowering. Nettles that are flowering have a high concentration of calcium carbonate, which may irritate the bladder and kidneys.
- Choose clean harvesting sites. Don’t pick wild plant in potentially polluted areas or too close to the road where they may be dusted with exhaust fumes.
- Skip the purple leaves. This is typically a sign that the plant is stressed. Although nutritionally acceptable, these leaves may have a more bitter flavor.
- Use gloves! Kind of an important tip- stinging nettle is aptly named for the tiny barb-like hairs that inject irritating compounds (formic acid, histamine, acetylcholine, and serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine) into your skin.
- Only use raw nettles in recipes where they have been finely ground to neutralize the stinging hairs. If this makes you nervous, you can give them a light steam before incorporating them into a recipe.
*Pregnant women should avoid consuming stinging nettle due to it’s ability to trigger uterine contractions.
1 bunch cilantro, (chop stems off)
1 bunch of Italian parsley, leaves picked from stems
~2 cups nettle leaves, packed
1/3 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic
juice of two small lemons
½ tsp sea salt
Add garlic, olive oil and lemon juice to a high speed blender or food processor followed by the greens and salt and blend until well combined. If using a Vitamix it is helpful to use the damper attachment to press the greens down. Use this wild food chimichurry on top of eggs, veggies, meats, or as a dip!