Immersed in mid-winter’s landscape, hibernation happening everywhere, I rambled happily through the woods this morning: stumps and boulders blanketed with piles of verdant moss, lichened branches overhead, paths underfoot cushioned with fecund layers of frosted grass and leaves, icicles clinging to branches along the creek. Shorn of their leaves, bare branched trees are statuesque svelte silhouettes for winter.
I’m on Orcas Island in the San Juans with Poppy, pretending to work for a few days and I’m smitten. We had sun all day long. The sweet spots, breathless sunny niches, were inviting and when you stood there, face upward in hopeful prayer that you might receive a smidge of warmth, well, you did. Sunny bliss while decked out in gloves, scarves, boots and caps. Hey, it’s winter. Earlier we’d reminisced about the nettles here in springtime when, with great care, Poppy collects them for her creamed nettles. You can’t comfortably walk down this path after early spring. Nettles rule. But in winter they’re tiny and easily conquered, or so I thought. I returned with a bag and gloves and foraged a bunch for a healthy pot of steaming tea. Cold as the dickens out, but these baby nettles are firm in stature and on their way, harbingers of spring in January.
For me it was a heavenly task scoping out the woodland floor on hands and knees, seeking baby nettles. I gathered a bagful, but not without stinging fingers. Still tingling as a matter of fact. I touched a single nettle and then put the gloves on. I guess I thought they’re tiny and fresh and couldn’t be that bad. In fact, they may be more potent when they’re small. These guys carry a wallop, thus their name (stinging nettles), which portends a healthy nutritional wallop when transformed into a pot of tea.
And so it is. Nettles are full of wildly healthy nutrients, high levels of minerals, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, silica, iodine, silicon, sodium, and sulfur. They’re a good source of vitamin C, beta-carotene, and B complex vitamins. Nettles also have high levels of easily absorbed amino acids. They’re ten percent protein, more than any other vegetable. A walk in the woods is a health benefit too. Dried nettles are available in bulk at most health food stores. Check out fellow blogger Finspot’s recent Stinging Nettle, Potato & Leek soup, and Poppy’s Creamed Nettles posted last spring.
*To make the tea with freshly picked nettles:
Wearing gloves, wash and rinse nettles.
Wearing gloves, measure about a cupful and place them in a teapot. Now you can take the gloves off. Fill teapot with nearly boiling water and allow to steep for eight minutes. If you have rose hips throw them in too. Strain and pour into mugs, stir in a teaspoon of honey and a twist of freshly ground pepper. A slice of lemon if you wish.
Toxic sting gone, the tea is imbued with this utterly fresh green flavor, Poppy and I both thought like asparagus. Mellow and soft as can be. Not at all bitter, though I was expecting that. While I sip nettle tea my cells are celebrating osmotic infusions of healthiness. The woodland experience was the cake,
* One source recommended drinking just a cup a day to let your body adjust to this herbal drink. Side affects in a few instances can be nasty I’ve read, though I’ve never known that to happen to anyone I know.