“Nettle tops eaten in the spring consume the phlegmatic superfluities in the body of man.” Nicholas Culpeper, The Complete Herbal and English Physician (1653)
Spring is here, but our enthusiasm to get out into the early sunshine, to bask in the yellow flora and the lime-green leaves and shoots peeping, popping and unfurling from the hedgerows, can have unfortunate consequences for those of us who are ill-prepared for this sudden increase in physical activity. Aching, tired and even pulled muscles will inevitably temper our initial excitement. If we heed the wisdom of nature around us— the Fiddlehead Ferns (Polypodiopsida spp.) gracefully unfurling, the oversized Horse-Chestnut buds (Aesculus hippocastanum) slowly revealing their palmate leaves —we can see that activity is should be gradually built up, with lots of stretching and resting in between exercise to allow our sleepy muscles time to catch up with the active mind.
As ever, our herbal friends may help us transition from the restful winter to the more active state. The young leafy greens are filled to bursting with their highest concentrations of goodness, and can provide a much needed tonic at this time of year. The Nettle (Urtica dioica) has to be the favourite in The Brew Room, and recently we have been out harvesting the first ‘tops’. Fresh Nettle shoots can provide continuous harvest if the top 10-15cm of tender new growth is trimmed regularly with scissors. Its high concentrates of calcium, potassium, magnesium, and iron are due to the Nettle’s long tap roots (the very ones that gardeners silently curse), which absorb more minerals from deep in the ground than their shallow-rooted neighbours. No small wonder that the ubiquitous Nettle has been used for centuries as the go-to herb to help with cramping muscles!
There are so many nutritive recipes available; we would urge the sweet-toothed to try Nettle Cake, or perhaps Nettle Crackers for lovers of all things savoury. Recipes for both can easily be found online. But today, we offer two of our favourite brews, which encourage regular imbibing of Nettle’s beneficial extracts.
This infusion is perfect for enjoying at the end of a mizzly day or after an open water dip. Take time to inhale the aromas before sipping slowly and focusing on nourishing the whole body.
To make, assemble:
3 sprigs of Nettle tops
1tbsp each of minced fresh Ginger (Zingiber officinale) and Turmeric (Curcuma), both known for their circulation boosting and anti-inflammatory constituents
Freshly ground Black Pepper (Piper nigrum), to promote the absorption of ingredients
Place the ingredients into a large teapot or cafetiere, cover and allow to brew for ten minutes before straining.
The following are all harvested locally, and they combine beautifully in an overnight infusion which you can keep in your flask for replenishing muscles during your spring activities.
Ingredients for a 500ml glass jar:
2 sprigs of young Lemon Balm leaves (Melissa officinalis), to stem inflammation and to refresh
3 sprigs of Nettle tops, to provide the nutritive benefits of vitamins and minerals
1 tbsp of Elderflowers (Sambucus nigra), to promote healthy joints
2-3 stems of Cleavers (Gallium aparine), to cleanse the lymphatic system
A slice of Lemon (Citrus limon) to taste
Place all the ingredients in the glass jar, cover and refrigerate overnight if possible. Strain and enjoy.