In my last post, I talked about Stinging nettles and how they really are a superfood – containing over 50 chemical constituents valuable to our bodies.
There is still perhaps a little bit of time to find yourself some stinging nettles and make the most of their goodness this year. It is important to only harvest nettles that have not yet gone to flower. As they flower their levels of calcium carbonate crystals increase and these can leave you more vulnerable to kidney stones, so are best avoided.
I have made a nettle syrup with my last nettle harvest. In fact, I have been making all kinds of syrups this spring and so I wanted to share with you this easy and delicious way that you can fill your kitchen cupboards with the vitamins, minerals and medicine of the fields and hedgerows.
Nettle Syrup Recipe
Sterilise* a clean bottle ready to put your syrup into it. You will need a few jars or small bottles or a clean, empty wine bottle.
- Fill a saucepan with freshly picked nettle tops. Cover them with 600ml boiling water and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Take them off the heat and leave the pan covered and the leaves steeping for 20 minutes.
- Strain the liquid from the leaves through a piece of muslin or a jelly bag, squeezing out excess liquid from the leaves.
- Measure the liquid you have extracted. It will probably be around 500ml.
- Pour this liquid into a clean saucepan and add 500g of sugar as you re-heat the liquid.
- Simmer for 5-10 minutes until the sugar dissolves and the liquid becomes glassy.
- Pour this liquid into your sterilised jars or bottles, put the lids on and leave to cool.
- Label and enjoy added to smoothies, or drizzled over porridge or over dessert.
Did you notice the sugar added is a ration of 1:1? So if you have 500ml of water, add 500g of sugar. 1l of water, 1kg of sugar etc.
This may seem like a lot of sugar. The sugar is acting as the preservative which is why you need so much of it. Sugar is a great preservative and sugar syrups are stable and will last a long time so you can enjoy your herbs throughout the year, way beyond the time they are in season.
I personally don't like the taste or the highs and lows that sugar gives me, so I like to make my syrups with honey instead of sugar.
In my experience, syrups made with honey go mouldy much quicker than sugar syrups. So I a) store them in the fridge and b) use this higher ratio of honey to liquid - 2:1. I guess the honey has its own water content so gets more diluted than just sugar and makes the syrup less stable.
So if you have 500ml of nettle liquid, you would add twice as much honey - 1000ml.
Then bring this back to the boil melting the honey and nettle infusion together. Simmer for 5-10minutes and then pour into your sterilised bottles or jars.
Vegan and Sugar-Free
If you don't want to use honey or sugar, you could experiment with apple concentrate using the same recipe above and adding the sweetner at a 2:1 ratio. I have also used agave syrup before - but again the syrup already has its own water content, so I definitely had to keep it in the fridge and it lasted a much shorter time than the pure sugar syrups.
This is a basic recipe that I use for all kinds of plants at this time of year like primroses, daisies, roses, sage, thyme, ginger. Just follow the same steps with each plant. For roots like ginger, you will want to boil them for longer. Actually leave them simmering for 20 minutes rather than just steeping.
Syrups and elixirs are alcahol free, so a great way for children and folk who are avoiding alcahol to add herbs to their diets. I keep a selection syrups in the fridge and add them to my breakfast smoothies and porridge.
I hope you enjoy experimenting and licking your sticky fingers!!
*I sterilise my glassware by heating it in the oven on a very low heat and filling them while they are piping hot. Be very gentle and careful not to burn yourself. If you put cold liquid into a hot jar, it can crack. I use a heat setting below 100 degrees. You must be vigilant and gentle, glass is fragile. You can also use a baby-bottle steriliser.