More Goji Berries plus Stinging Nettles
Yup, it’s still goji month. I’ve been having so much fun with gojis that I thought I’d share two more recipes with you. One is for a delectable candy that went so fast in my house that I didn’t get any pictures! The other is for a scrumptious and nutritious herbal tea infusion concocted by Andrea Caplan Livingston of Phytofoods that includes stinging nettles.
Oh Gee! Goji Nakayummies
These candies are perfect for either Passover or Easter. They create a lovely marbled affect like a dyed Easter Egg.
You can put them into any shape mold you like. I was looking for little egg-shapes, or even ovals, which I know exist, but I haven’t yet found them. Really, anything works, a small glass dish from which you cut the candy like fudge, rolling the semi-hardened mixture into a log and then cutting off disks as you want more, etc. Be creative!
1/2 cup goji berries, ground to a paste in a coffee or spice grinder
1/2 cup gently melted cacao butter
(use a double boiler or glass inside of a pan of boiled water)
1/2 cup gently softened coconut butter
1/3 to scant 1/2 cup raw honey
zest of two oranges (blood oranges work great)
1) Thoroughly mix all ingredients together until blended.
2) Spoon mixture into flexible ice cube trays or candy molds (see note above). The mixture might separate a bit–the oil from the sweet goji paste. Don’t worry. This is what creates the lovely marbled effect. Just be sure to get some of each portion into each mold.
Nettle Mint Goji Tea
Read on to learn more about nettles.
All About Nettles
Spring has truly arrived. In the fickle-weathered Pacific Northwest the Camelia and daffodils are blooming. They’re not alone. Hope shines through people’s eyes as they begin to extend out from winter retreat, heading to the woods with rain boots and gloves. Maybe it’s the nettles that bring that twinkle of promise. In my small bubble of a Portland community there’s a definite buzz this time of year—a buzz about nettles.
Stinging nettles grow wild throughout the United States and Europe. They’re the first edible green to appear in the spring. Traditionally, when attaining greens through winter was not as simple as it is today, the first crops of nettles were harvested and made into restorative spring tonic soups.
Our ancestors were wise. They didn’t need to analyze the nutritional benefits of a wild food. They instinctively knew its value, and consumed its many blessings of strength and vitality. Yet the worth of the young nettle plant is not only in its health profile, but also in its taste. It satisfies the soul, as you’ll see in this tea infusion—a perfect curative for the capricious season.
Why Eat Nettles?
The health benefits of nettles are plentiful. Nettles are a kidney tonic with diuretic properties that allow for the release of water soluble toxins. They provide relief from the allergies that plague many in the spring, by improving our resistance to pollens and molds. Nettles enrich the blood and ameliorate high blood pressure levels. From a Chinese medicine perspective, they build overall chi—or energy flow in the body. And nettles are an adrenal tonic, boosting our ability to handle the stress that life presents with more vigor and equanimity.
The formic acid that’s contained in the nettles’ stingers also has several beneficial effects. If pricked with these little stingers, they will increase circulation; help with arthritic pain; and relieve sciatica. In some cultures nettles are used specifically to alleviate muscle pain and reduce varicose veins. I received an intentional nettle “whacking” on my neck and shoulders last summer, and have to admit that the pain was minor and the aftermath brought great relief! This is likely because nettles contain a chemical compound called caffeic mallic acid. This compound inhibits inflammation by stopping a series of steps that induce the release of histamine.
Nettle tea encourages the growth of intestinal villi, making it a great tonic for those healing from digestive problems involving the small intestines such as leaky gut or IBS. This is because it contains all the vitamins that make it a potent anti-inflammatory—vitamins C, E, & K, as well as the flavanoid quercetin. It also contains B vitamins and a host of minerals including calcium, iron, chromium, and silica.
How to Eat Nettles
Nettles can be used much like spinach or any other mild tasting green. However the sting of the stinging nettles must be disabled before the nettles are consumed. This can be done through cooking, pureeing, juicing, or blending. The stinger is also deactivated when the nettle leaves are dried or powdered.
How to Harvest Nettles
Nettles are only good to eat when they are young and tender, before they flower. When gathering, unless you are well trained at avoiding the stingers, wear long pants, long sleeves, and rubber gloves. You can use scissors to cut them and carry them home in a paper bag or a basket.
Many health food stores carry bags of fresh nettles at this time of year. And herb shops typically have the dried version readily available.
Once in the kitchen, if handling fresh nettles, use gloves or tongs to avoid the stingers.
Your comments and feedback are always welcome. Is there an ingredient you'd like to learn more about? Is there a nutrition class you always wish existed? Let me know!