Long live the nettle, a concentrate of health! – Italian Cuisine


A beneficial plant spread throughout the world in mild to temperate climates, particularly in very humid habitats (such as forests, rivers and on the edges of roads), already used in Greek and Roman times to soften meat and decidedly in vogue in a large number of recipes, especially in this spring season.
Let's talk about thenettle, a plant species that seems to derive its name from the Anglo-Saxon word "noedl" or "needle" (not for nothing its Latin name "urtica" means to burn), which we now know better thanks to Raffaella Melani, nutritionist biologist, ready to reveal her beneficial properties and advice in the kitchen.

Valuable source of beneficial substances, such as polyphenols

157529"Nettles are a rich source of nutrients. They can contain up to 3.7% protein, 0.6% fat, 6.4% dietary fiber and 7.1% carbohydrate", says the nutritionist, " The leaves are rich sources of precious elements, such as i carotenoids (also contained in carrots, pumpkin, broccoli) e fatty acids, as well as of various essential amino acids for our health, namely chlorophyll, vitamins, tannins, carbohydrates, sterols, polysaccharides, isolectins and minerals. Extracts from the aerial parts of nettles are rich sources of polyphenols, while the roots contain oleanolic acid, sterols and glycosides ".

Rich in vitamins

130969The fresh leaves contain high concentrations of vitamins. Deepens Raffaella Melani "In particular la A, C, D, E, F, K and P, as well as of vitamin B complexes. The leaves are also known to contain particularly large amounts of minerals such as selenium, zinc, iron and magnesium. Zinc was found in the highest concentrations in the leaves (27.44 mg / kg of dry mass), followed by copper (17.47 mg / kg) and manganese (17.17 mg / kg) ".

Beneficial for the prostate

170425Because of the variety of phytochemicals and their proportions they contain, nettles show considerable activity against bacteria. Dr. Melani explains "The most recognized health benefit of using these plants is activity against benign prostatic hyperplasia, also known as an enlarged prostate, as well as iurinary tract infections. Nettles can also help alleviate the symptoms of osteoarthritis and joint pain, generally in the case of hands, knees, hips and spine ".

Essential to know when and how to collect it

141251As with other plants, the composition of plants is influenced by various factors, including variety, climate, soil, vegetative phase, harvest time, storage and treatment. When and how nettles are harvested it strongly determines the final product. The nutritionist states "For the production of fibers, nettles must be harvested when the seeds are ripe or when the stems reach 80% of the biomass on the surface, starting from the second year of sowing. To use the leaves instead you need to choose younger plants. As a result, the harvest period also makes the difference: plants harvested in April are used for the production of fodder, medicine or chlorophyll. Nettles harvested at the end of June are used for fiber production. The second harvest of September can be used for the collection of leaves ".

In the kitchen it is multi-use!

154201These plants can be consumed mainly as a fresh boiled or cooked vegetable, added to soups or used in vegetable salads. In European countries, nettles are used in soups or as steamed or withered vegetables. Because it has a similar taste and texture, cooked nettle can be used as a substitute for spinach. Raw nettles after mixing they can also be used in sauces for the pesto, salad dressings or other sauces.

In Italy and also in other countries

In the temperate region ofHimalaya, the leaves are cooked and eaten as a green vegetable. The plants are boiled with cornmeal, millet or wheat, with the addition of salt and chilli to make a sort of porridge. The boiled nettles with nuts they are a common dish in Georgia, while I Romanian prepare the sour soup using fermented wheat bran, vegetables and young nettle leaves. The mature leaves are used in the production of Cornish cheese semi-hard, made from milk rich in grass and wrapped in nettles. The nettle changes the acidity of the outer part of the cheese, influencing the way the curd breaks and matures. It has also been documented that nettle leaves can be used to coagulate milk in the process of making fresh cheese. In some European countries, for example in Serbia and Poland, the bread with nettle leaves (up to 1%) is sold as a commercial product. Points out Melani "Compared to barley and wheat flour, the nettle flour it has a much higher content of proteins, raw fibers, fats, ashes, calcium and iron and has a low glycemic index. Compared to barley and wheat, nettles have much higher levels of total tannins and polyphenols ".

Beneficial also in the form of herbal tea

121773The nettle leaves they can also be used to prepare herbal teas, rich in vitamins and minerals. Depending on the amount used, nettle tea tastes light to strong and tastes similar to vegetable broth. The nettle tea concentrate can be used as soup base or as a component in beverages or green cocktails. The nettle roots can be used as extracts liquids or powders, as well as special decoctions. Nettles are also used in herbal liqueurs. In the British Isles, plants are used in an alcoholic beverage, similar to ginger beer and produced in the same way.
Nettle, for all its properties, is therefore suitable for a wide range of possible applications, including functional foods, food supplements and pharmacological formulations, but nothing beats its tastiest form, the filling for ravioli!

Elisa Nata
April 2019

This recipe has already been read 316 times!

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