It is known that agrestic plants have more vitality than tame ones, as they have to fight for their life. Their vitality manifests in their healing properties. Many of them are edible, and some grow right under your feet. There is no need for far away quests, as you can find them on any meadow and in any garden, where they dwell as weeds. Among others, these plants are common nettles and plantain.
Mikhail Baranov. Edible agrestic plants
Contains vitamins: carotene (up to 50%), K, B2, C vitamins. There is up to 209 mg % of C vitamin in young spring shoots, and 0.6 mg% in the summer leaves, as in any other plant). The leaves contain a lot of starch (up to 20%), sugars (up to 25%), more than 2% of tannin, 0.2% of organic acids, and up to 8% of chlorophylls. Nettles are one of the few plants that are rich in calcium.
Thanks to this abundant content the plant can substitute for black currant, spring onion, carrot, sorrel and sea buckthorn. Nettles is much richer in protein than any other vegetable and its just as nutritious as legumes. Nettle sap is used in medicinal diet for treatment of liver and biliary tracks. It is also used for stomach and vitamin infusions. It is one of the best herbs to improve blood’s protection properties. It helps to treat skin diseases connected with metabolic problems. It is also effective against bronchitis and bronchial asthma and anemia. Nettle-eaters should keep in mind that this plant increases blood coagulability, so if they suffer from varicose disease or thrombophlebitis, they should not indulge in it.
The leaves contain aukubin glukoside, bitter principles and tannin, phlegm, ferments and citric acid, carotene, C and K viamins and phytoncids. Plantain has antiphlogistic, wound-healing, expectorative and blood-purifying properties. It also increases stomach’s secretory capacity. Bitter, sweet and astringent tastes of plantain help balance Pitta. This property makes it a useful ingredient of herbal teas to treat excessive acidity, peptic ulcer, hypoacid gastritis, hemorrhage, as well as skin pustular diseases, connected with Pitta inbalance, such as furunculosis. Young plantain leaves have delicate taste, sweet and a little bit astringent. They taste quite good and perfectly fit a medical or preventive diet. You can eat them raw or as a paste, a sauce for vegetable salads. Plantain is used in other dishes in the same way as nettles.
Nettles can be used not only for salads and soups, but also added to many other dishes: vegetable and mushroom ragouts, dishes with grains, rice, legumes and cottage cheese. It can be added into a vegetarian version of a cold Russian soup, okroshka. Nettles are also soured, salted and mashed into seasonings, sauces and pastes.
Early spring is the time when the young shoots are the richest in Prana and vitamins, micro- and macronutrients. At this time, young nettles with purple stems are up for grabs. You can eat the whole plant, except for the roots. If nettles are riper and have flat leaves, the stems are not for eating. They cannot be stored for a long time, neither raw, nor boiled. Nettles lose vitamins very quickly, so it’s better to eat them right on the day you pick them. It can be stored in the fried, but for no longer than three days. The same can actually be said about any herb. If you want to keep nettles, you can keep it only if you dry it properly. This method will keep mostly its healing properties than nutritious. You can of course, freeze it as well, as spinach is frozen, but this processing draws its vitaminity into question.
Foolproof. Young leaves and shoots are washed in a pot and then thrown into a colander. These nettles can be added in soups and vegetable ragouts. Add it at the end of cooking, whole or minced, and leave it there to infuse for about 5-10 min.
Porridge. The best time for nettles in your porridge is after the water is absorbed, but the porridge is not yet ready. After adding them, turn off the cooker and let them infuse for some time. Nettles are tasty with buckwheat, millet and rice. It can be accompanied with some oil or clarified butter and then wrapped into towel and left to infuse for about 15 or 20 minutes.
Ghee. Sauté nettles in ghee, after your favourite spices. Don’t fry the spices! Spread them eqally instead and heat for not longer than a minute. Sauté nettles just like fresh ones, can be added into any dishes, from sandwiches to soups. This way of processing makes it “warmer” and more nutritious. Besides, ghee is an anupana, or a conductor. It means that it helps to preserve and transmit the healing properties of the herb into the tissues of the body.
Salads. If you have decided to serve some salad to picky yogis, make sure that you use only the young and delicate nettle leaves. They have to be washed and scalded. You can actually try any salad ingredients, as long as the yogi’s digestion fire is strong enough, and there’s no fish, meat, garlic or doubtful leftovers inside. Just lavishly add nettles, plantain, ghee and cheese.
“Tribute to tradition” (2-3 servings) – the favourite dish of Kapha-built Turkish housewives.
300 g of nettle leaves
100 g of parsley leaves (dill, cilantro)
300 g steeped feta-cheese
60 g sour cream or 2-3 table spoons of olive oil
Lemon juice, salt to taste
Steep the leaves in boiling-hot water and throw them onto a sieve. Then mince them with other herbs. Dice feta-cheese, put it into a salad plate, add herbs, lemon juice, salt, sour cream and carefully mix.
“Wound-healing flame-extinguisher” – for two red-haired Pitta-wrath stomach sufferers.
100 g of plantain leaves
100 g beet tops
100 g nettle leaves
100 g cilantro or dill
150 g sour cream
100 g homemade cottage cheese
Salt to taste
Notice: As the guests seem to get fuller, quietly add 200-300 g feta-cheese, bread and circuses.
CIRCUS No 1 Nettle sause (cooking time: 5 minutes)
Requires a blender. This sause can be used with salads, vegetable ragouts or simply boiled rice. It is also good with protein-rich food, like cheese, cottage cheese and legumes. Ingredients:
100-150 g nettles
50–70 g plantain
50 g cilantro or any herb you choose
4-5 t spoons of extra virgin olive oil
¼ tea spoon of green hot pepper (or fresh ginger)
Sea salt / black salt – to taste
Lemon, lime, sour grapefruit juice – 1-2 t spoons
Pour a little bit of water over scalded nettles, plantain and other herbs, add the pepper or ginger, salt, oil and lemon juice. Blend into a mass. Notice: do not overdo with pepper or ginger, in this sauce spice only increases other tastes.
CIRCUS No 2 “Nettle paneer” (2-3 servings)
100-150 g nettles
100 g cilantro
300-400 g paneer
100 g ghee
1 green hot chili pepper
bean-sized piece of fresh ginger
¼ tea spoon whole cumin
¼ tea spoon turmeric
¼ tea spoon cinnamon
Sea salt / black salt – to taste
¼ curry leave
¼ tea spoon garam masala
Prepare the spices, nettles, cilantro and cheese. Heat ghee in a pan, add cumin seeds, cloves and curry leave, keep it for 15-20 seconds and then add minced chili or ginger, mix and heat not more than 30 seconds. Then add ground spices and diced paneer. Mix, add washed whole nettle leaves and minces cilantro. Add a bit of boiling water, and after the sauce boils, turn off the cooker and keep it under lid for 15-20 min.
CIRCUS No 3 Vegetarian noodles in nettle sauce (2-3 servings, cooking time 10-20 min)
100 g whole grain noodles
50 g parmezan cheese
100 g paneer
1 red onion (sweet) or leek (to taste and if desired)
¼ tea spoon turmeric
For the sauce:
100 – 150 g young nettle leaves
100 g paprika pepper
A pinch of red hot pepper
1/3 tea spoon oregano
Sea salt or black salt – to taste
Extra virgin olive oil – 4-5 spoons
Boil the noodles in a usual way (depending on the sort, 5-15 min). While the noodles are boiling, prepare the sauce. Wash and scald the nettle leaves, put them into a blender together with half a paprika, red hot pepper, oregano and salt. Add a bit of boiling hot water into the blender (3-4 t spoons) and blend it all into a thick paste. Add olive oil and mix again. Then, prepare the paneer. Pour a bit of broth from the noodles into a pan and stew the onion cut in rounds in the water for a couple of minutes, then add and stir turmeric, put diced paneer on top of it. Simmer it for another couple of minutes. Then mix it with the noodles and nettle sauce, turn off the cooker, add grated parmesan on top and let the dish stay for 5 minutes under the lid.
True yogis know that some mental noodling around can from time to time be necessary to increase the energy exchange between the left and right brain hemispheres. Subprana Samana is in charge of this process, and subprana Prana is responsible for controlling the process of noodling around. Well trained Samana can bear any sort of noodling, including noodling with undercooked noodles, and sometimes even dry ones. In this case it is recommended to drink 4-5 litres of water during the day. This way the shrewdest adepts gradually clean the organism on cellular and sub-cellular level. Advanced practitioners prefer noodles that include crude fibers to improve vermicular motion and stimulating the flow of Apana, which is very important for quick and efficient excretion of undigested and indigestible substances energy particles. Buckwheat noodles (soba) are used for the same purposes. What folks do is mixing fried buckwheat seeds, unthreshed barley and onion skins in equal portions, grinding them, and adding one tea spoon of wormwood per one glass of the mixture and some sea salt. The intake is 1-2 table spoons in the morning before eating, with warm water or green tea, and during the day it can be added to normal noodles. The effect is dropping and raising of Apana, cleaning the digestive tract, the mind and nadi channels. The altered state of consciousness described above is affectionately called “Nadya Apanasovna” (a name and patronymic – translator’s note). Keeping this diet for some time (5-7 years) allows the intestines wash off all the negative information and lengthen themselves up to 10-15 metres, gaining an ability to evolve up to 20(!) litres of digestive liquid per day. At this stage excessive consumption of milk, gee and other sweet sort of food is highly recommended. The next stage is taking rasayana. For this purpose we often use usual nettles.
Nettles are known to have been the favourite dish of the famous Tibetan yogi Milarepa. His authorship is ascribed to a nettle paste recipe that is still popular. Melted water is stirred in a pounder for up to three days, gradually adding nettles and yak urine, three-quarter sun-dried, (continuously repeating some mantra – editor’s note). The thick paste can have quite diverse use. In case of brain overwork and temporary amnesia, the paste should be wormed into the head and armpits, in the area of marms, and also taken by mouth (two-three table spoons every two-three hours) until the memory is regained. The paste is applied before meditation onto forehead and top of the head (brahma-randra), which allows a hectic, boiling, scattered, dry and shaggy mind to become cool, moist, humble, concentrated and stable within the skull. Milarepa himself was said to have often used the nettle-urine paste, preliminary kept for years, as a kind of test for his disciples. By unexpectedly putting some paste under a practitioner’s nose, he could tell unmistakably, who had managed to conquer the senses. In any case, nettles’ property to reduce Pitta, particularly the Pitta that is condensed in the brain and is responsible for transforming thoughts and concepts, has been well known. The bile-expelling qualities of nettles are valued in fitotherapy and healthy eating. It is close in protein richness to asparagus, (“the best of all vegetables”, as Swami Swatvarama puts it). The presence of iron, vitamins and fibres makes it an irreplaceable dressing for well-served pasta. That is why the contemporary masters of yogic cooking art have been so fond of this combination, implanting the taste to healthy, simple and nutritious food for meditation to their followers.