Herbal medicine has long praised stinging nettle for its expansive list of preventive and curative properties. One of the most interesting is its high calcium content, accompanied by high levels of vitamins A, C and E, iron, beta carotene, and phosphates. Nettles have been known to treat everything from arthritis to allergies with great success.
I've enjoyed eating my fair share of stinging nettle over the years, sauteing the tender greens in butter as one of the first acts of Spring's arrival. Excellent in quiches and pastries, nettles have an earthy, grassy flavor not unlike spinach or kale. I've always appreciated their robust tolerance to otherwise unsuitable growing conditions. Okay so it's a weed, and an invasive one to boot, but a fine one to take advantage of.
Only slightly less plorific is the lovely monarda (commonly known as bee balm, bergamot or horsemint ) luring hummingbirds from afar with its bright tubular blooms. Due to its antibacterial properties, Native Americans relied on bee balm tea to treat conditions affecting the mouth and throat such as infections and gingivitis. Bee balm teas were also used to relieve fevers and headache.
Added to a stinging nettle infusion, bee balm not only increases the healing properties of this drink, but also the mineral and vitamin A, B2 and C levels, making this the perfect blend for summertime thirst. Sweeten with local honey and pour over ice as a cooling tonic. Great for upset tummies, digestive issues, runny noses, colds, sore throat and chest congestion, or just for plain enjoying. Cheers!
Bee Balm Nettleade:
*1 half gallon ball jar filled with fresh stinging nettle
*blossoms and top leaves from 4-5 monarda stems
*juice from 1 1/2 lemons
*local honey (optional)
*mint for garnish
Fill ball jar with fresh nettle (be sure to wear gloves for harvesting).
Add monarda petals and leaves. Fill jar with enough water to cover all plant material. Apply lid.
Allow to sit in sun for one full day.
Strain. Add lemon juice and honey (if desired). Garnish with fresh mountain mint.
*For stronger infusion, place jar with its contents in refrigerator overnight. Strain, add honey and lemon and enjoy over ice.