Are you familiar with superfoods? For quite some time superfoods have been quite popular and exotic names like goji, acai, spirulina and others have become quite familiar even to people who live far away from the places where these superfoods grow. The food industry is embracing them because a fancy, foreign ingredient immediately catches the attention of the consumer who will be prone to buying the product.
If you’ve found your way to this post, though, you know that The Adagio Blog is about food that’s local, seasonal and, when possible, wild. So, ladies and gentleman, gear up with thick gloves, rubber boots and a bucket, because I’m about to bring you to the forest and show you how you can pick an incredible superfood all by yourself. I think many of you have already used this plant’s leaves to make delicious soups for example, but today I want to introduce you to another part of the amazing wild plant that is the stinging nettle, namely its seeds.
When and How to Pick Nettle Seeds
Nettle seeds grow on the female plants of nettle and they reach maturity by the end of the summer or beginning of autumn, depending on the area and how exposed the plants are to the sunlight. The seeds are tiny and grow in clusters around the higher end of the stalks. They are ready to be picked when they are starting to turn brown, but are still mostly green.
When picking nettle seeds, use gloves and long sleeves to avoid being stung by the leaves. With the help of a scissor, cut the nettle stalks, bundle them with a kitchen twine and hang them to dry for about a week. Once the stalks are dry, always using gloves, remove the seeds from the plant and collect them into a bowl. I like to still dry them for a few days and then transfer them in a jar for storage.
As usual when foraging, pick a very clean and remote spot, far from trafficked roads and pollution.
Benefits of Nettle Seeds
Stinging nettle seeds are indeed worthy of the name superfood, as they contain a long list of vitamins, such as vitamin A, B, C, E and K, and other nutrients such as Iron, Calcium, Potassium , Beta Carotene, Folic Acid and several essential Fatty Acids, to name a few! (source)
Nettle seeds are also anti-inflammatory and help in supporting our kidneys.
Moreover, these super seeds are adaptogens, meaning that they help against stress, maintain hormonal balance and boost immunity. I found a very interesting historical note on Henriette’s Herbal that mentions how in the 1800s dishonest horse peddlers in Europe would feed nettle seeds to horses before they took them to market and how this gave the horses shiny pelts and a youthful appearance.
How to Use Nettle Seeds
Apparently this superfood has been hiding in plain sight for a long time, because when I asked my followers on Instagram how they use nettle seeds, most of them told me they’ve never tasted them!
Nettle seeds don’t have a very strong flavor. They taste slightly nutty and a bit like the rest of the plant, so it reminds of spinach. Because of their mild flavor but incredible nutrients and benefits, these seeds can be sprinkled on top of virtually anything like porridge, smoothies, yogurt and salads.
Another great way to use nettle seeds is to incorporate them in your baking, such as on crackers or on a nice loaf of bread (better still, an effortless sourdough bread!).
Nettle seeds can be also used to make herbal teas simply by steeping them for a few minutes in hot water.
After doing some research I found two other interesting ways on how to use nettle seeds. One was to crush the seeds with a mortar and preserve them in oil, which can be used to season salads. The other way was to make a tincture with a distillate such as vodka or grappa at a ratio of 1 part of seed to 5 parts of vodka by volume. According to this source, in the 16th century nettle seed was crushed and then soaked in wine.
Are you planning on foraging the amazing nettle seed superfood that grows right at our fingertips? If yes, how are you planning to use them? Let me know in the comment box below!