As days start to get longer and winter turns to spring soon, the countryside is as lush and green as it could be. Unprecedented amount of rain in February -after a drier than usual December and January- encourages a lot of wild plants to grow again and enjoy the favourable conditions of this period. It is just a perfect time to harvest nettle, an annual herbaceous plant as they are reaching a good size yet they are still tender. There are four nettle species that can be found in Malta, but the most common is the large leaved nettle (Urtica membranacea) which is native to the Mediterranean Basin and also indigenous in Malta. It can be found both in natural and disturbed areas where it prefers to grow on moist and nitrogen-rich soils like those close to carob trees. It also often pops up in cultivated garden beds and fields, therefore a lot of people see it as an unwanted weed, especially since its tendency to sting when touched, causing a light irritation to the skin.
We, at The Cliffs look at the nettle in a different perspective as it has a long history of use for its edible and medicinal properties. It is a rich source of flavonoids, antioxidants, vitamins C, A, K and B complex, calcium, magnesium, iron, linolenic acid and quercetin. The nutritious leaves and stems can be used for cooking or to make a refreshing herbal tea. Medicinally it has been used to improve respiratory and prostate health, manage blood sugar, as arthritis relief or fight against common colds. When consumed as a tea, it is diuretic, helping the body to release toxins.
We harvest the nettles fresh from our fields which we manage in an ecological way since they are part of the Natura 2000, an EU wide network of nature protection areas. Our experienced, local chefs then prepare it for various dishes ranging from the delicious nettle cappuccino soup, nettle gnocchi or fried nettle leaves as garnish.
Come and enjoy tasting this seasonal wild food until it lasts.. Bon appetit!