Stinging nettle, scientific name urtica dioica of the Urticaceae family, is a plant known and appreciated for centuries for its nutritional and medicinal properties. In our previous articles we have always focused on the use of nettle as a herbal remedy, in the form of herbal teas useful to purify the body and counteract water retention. Today, however, we will go deeper in the use of stinging nettle as an ingredient for cooking.
Stinging nettle, nutritional properties
Nettle brings vitamins, such as A, C, K and E. Indeed, it can be considered one of the richest plants in vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant able to counteract free radical damage and aging processes. Not only that, nettle also contains gallic and tannic acid, which are characterized by anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, useful, for example, to counteract overweight and tumors, are protective for the heart and stomach (Kahkeshani et al, Iran J Basic Med Sci, 2019 - Cosan et al, Cytotechnology, 2015). But nettle also contains secretin, very helpful to stimulate the production of gastric juices, then it brings plant based proteins and fibers (Adhikari et al, Food Sci Nutr, 2016 - Aufiero, the nutritional and therapeutic role of food). Another very important feature of the nettle is that this plant brings mineral salts such as calcium and bioavailable iron and is therefore useful in case of bleeding, iron deficiency and hair loss caused by an iron deficiency in the body. Given the presence of iron that helps integrate any loss of this mineral and also thanks to substances such as tannins that promote the healing processes, stinging nettle is an interesting food in case of gastritis and stomach ulcers (Aufiero, the nutritional and therapeutic role of food). Finally, nettle helps to reduce the levels of triglycerides, blood sugar and cholesterol, strengthens the immune system and promotes the formation of red blood cells with benefits for good oxygenation of the blood (Ngugi et al, Fish Shellfish Immunol, 2015 - Messegue, Il my herbarium).
Stinging nettle for cooking
You can collect nettles in fields and gardens but avoid the areas on the roadsides that are polluted. Use gloves to collect the youngest and most tender leaves.
Then boil the nettle in boiling water for a few minutes, in this way the nettle loses the stinging effect, on the contrary the nutrients are largely maintained. In fact, as shown by scientific studies, cooking nettle leaves reduces the amount of vitamin C but increases that of vitamin E, then the other nutrients remain unchanged (Mahlangeni et al, J Environ Sci Health B, 2016). After cooking it, nettle can be used as a healthy and tasty ingredient in pasta or rice dishes, soups or it can simply be served in this way, seasoned with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. In particular, the latter preparation is very useful in case of ulcers.
Alternatively, the nettle, after being boiled for 4-5 minutes, can be cooked in a pan with a little extra virgin olive oil for a few minutes. This dish is very useful for the beauty of nails, skin and hair but also to stimulate the liver and in case of iron deficiency for an underwork of this organ (Aufiero, the nutritional and therapeutic role of food).