In many rural parts of the United States at the turn of the century, a favorite way of cleansing the body in the spring was to cook up a mess of fresh nettles. Stinging nettle, while tricky to harvest, is a superb kidney toner and can be taken as a tea or steamed vegetable. A friendly herbalist kindly shared some plants with me, so now I just walk outside my front door for my nettles. If you are not so fortunate, recruit an herb-savvy friend to help you identify them in the wild, and wear a pair of sturdy gloves. Snip the green leaves and branches about six inches from the ground, being sure to leave a generous number of plants growing. Spring and summer growth is the most tender. Two cups will cook down to a half-cup serving, which can be used as an adjunct to a fast, or cooked nettles can be taken on their own for a day or more. Take care not to eat them for too long, however, or you might turn green, as the Tibetan yogi Milarepa did when he undertook this fast!
Preparation time: 15 minutes. Good for all seasons, most readily available in spring and summer. Sattvic. Moderate use is fine for all doshas (it is especially calming to kapha and pitta).
1. Wearing garden or other sturdy gloves, wash under running water:
4 cups fresh stinging nettles, stems and leaves
2. Still wearing gloves, gently pick off the leaves from the stems. Save the leaves for cooking. Any especially tender stems can also be chopped and included.
3. Bring to a boil in a medium saucepan:
1 cup salted water (salt is optional)
4. Still wearing gloves, add the nettle leaves. Then take the gloves off. Once nettles are cooked, their sting is gone. Bring the nettles to a boil, then cover and simmer for 5–10 minutes, until they are tender.
5. Drain, reserving the liquid for broth or tea. Serve, with or without a dab of ghee
Amadea Morningstar is the author of The Ayurvedic Cookbook, Ayurvedic Cooking for Westerners, and The Ayurvedic Guide to Polarity Therapy. For more information, visit www.AyurvedaPolarityYoga.com.