Making the most of nature’s bounty is a huge part of my philosophy. I try to make use of anything that is available to me, whether it’s fruit and vegetables I grow myself, that given to me by friends and neighbours or wild food I find out in the fields and forests. So when I found a large patch of young nettles in the back garden recently, I decided to make tea.
When I live in Dublin I used to buy an expensive brand of organic nettle teabags. When I moved to Lithuania I was disappointed not to be able to find organic nettle tea – only “regular” nettle tea. Then it occurred to me that nettle tea is really just dried nettles, and since I was surrounded by organic nettles I could just make my own!
To make nettle tea, select nettles that are growing away from the road to avoid car fumes and be sure the area where the nettles are growing has not been sprayed with pesticides or any other harmful compounds. It is also important to choose nettles that have not yet come into flower as they lose some of their many benefits once they have flowered. The quickest method is to just pull the head of large, healthy nettles (wearing gloves) as this way you get lots of leaves but very little stem, so you don’t have to do anything further to them except wash them. If you pick whole nettles you will need to go through them afterwards to remove the leaves from the stem. (The stems are edible, but I find the taste a bit strong for tea.) Once you have collected your nettles, wash them in fresh, cold water, shake off excess water and spread them on a towel in a sunny spot to dry. They take about 2-3 days, depending on how warm your room is.
Once dried, gather them into a clean plastic bag and squish them from all sides until they crumble into small pieces. Transfer to a clean, dry jar. The tea will keep for about a year if the leaves have been properly dried. Use one heaped teaspoon per mug of water in a tea infuser or teapot.
Nettle tea has a multitude of benefits, but I find it wonderfully relaxing as an after-dinner tea.
From this batch of leaves, I got about 80 g (3 oz) of tea, which will keep me going for several months. And all for very little effort. Embrace your weeds, folks! They’re free and they’re good for you!