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Foraging and Preparing Iron-Rich Plants

Both bleeding and non-bleeding bodies require iron as an essential nutrient – it is what gives our blood its very color. It connects us to the iron core of the Earth – the spinning heart of our mother that gives rise to such planetary miracles as plate tectonics and our magnetic field. 

Among other functions, iron is an essential component of hemoglobin, a protein that transfers oxygen throughout our bodies. But bleeders should be especially cognizant of cravings and symptoms during their moon times, which can take a heavy toll on nutrient balances.

I have had a couple of family members and friends suffer extreme fatigue and dizziness for months before being diagnosed with severe anemia. 

Other symptoms can include, but are not limited to paleness, light-headness, shortness of breath, and loss of appetite. So basically, generic symptoms that can take a long time to pinpoint the cause. 

Iron supplements are always an option, but the best way to ensure that your body absorbs nutrients is to eat them!

When eating iron-rich foods, make sure that you are not also consuming a calcium rich food at the same time, as calcium inhibits iron absorption.  Available iron can be found in a range of nutrient-dense tasty foods, including organic sunflower seeds, beet greens and roots, and tofu.

An often-overlooked powerhouse of medicinal magic that is probably growing within a block of you right now is Urtica dioca, the European stinging nettle.

Because it is considered a noxious weed by many, the usual ethical foraging conditions need not apply, but as always, when foraging be mindful of the spirit of the plant, and look for signs of animal poo and if synthetic pesticides were used on the plants or nearby. 

The stinging nettle is classified as “fortifying”, meaning chock full of both vitamins and minerals that will strengthen and tone your entire system, and have been used by herbalists for everything from allergies to urinary health to alleviating PMS and menopause symptoms.  After steaming to render the stingers harmless, the greens can be used a spinach replacement in any recipe. 

According to herbalist-goddess Rosemay Gladstar, “The tips of the nettle plant in early spring and summer are superior, thought I’ve eaten them throughout the season.  If you have a stand of nettles nearby, trim them constantly so they will keep producing those tasty tops until fall.”

The stingers and signature serrated leaf makes it one of the easiest plants to identify, and if you do happen to get stung, the stingers can be easily removed (quickly!) by laying some scotch tape over the affected area, and pulling the stingers out.  I usually forage with one gloved hand one one hand for snipping! 

Stinging Nettle Lemon Cake

Recipe by Forage and Fern

  1. Wash and then steam 100g foraged stinging nettle tops (the first 6-8 leaves of plant, foraged with gloves on!). If the stems aren’t tender, just use the leaves. After a few minutes, blanche in cold water and press out excess water (stingers are neutralized at this point: no worries).
  2. Put in a blender with 200ml plant milk or cow milk and one tablespoon lemon juice. Blend until smooth.  Pour into bowl and mix with 75ml melted butter or olive oil (or a mix of both), and about 1 cup sugar (more or less to your taste), 1 teaspoon baking powder, 2 cups flour, and the zest of one lemon, and ½ teaspoon salt.  Mix well, and pour into muffin tins or a 4.5x8 loaf tin.
  3. Bake at 350F until a knife comes out clean: about 25 min for muffins and 45 minutes for a loaf.
  4. Optional glaze: whip together ¼ cup sugar with 1 tablespoon lemon juice; spoon on top.

Stinging Nettle Tea:

Pour near boiling water over a heaping tablespoon of dried nettle leaf. For urinary health, combine with dandelion green. For fatigue, you can combine with milky oat tops and/or raspberry leaf. You can drink several cups of this daily. Use a touch of honey if you like, but it’s not needed.

 

Have fun looking up other recipes incorporating stinging nettle, including pastas, and Rosemary Gladstar’s Iron Syrup and Tonic.

 

- Written by Sadie Francis of Only in the Forest

 Cover illustration by Rachael Amber

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