Eating Tea And Other Food Predictions For 2014

By Bonny Wolf, NPR

At the beginning of every year, we read the tea leaves to see what new food trends we’ll be tasting in the coming months. This year, the tea itself is the trend.

Tea leaves will be big in entrees, desserts and, of course, cocktails. Starbucks has opened its first tea shop.

We won’t be just drinking tea; Artisan distilling keeps on growing. This could be the year of gin, made with local botanicals as well as the traditional juniper berry.

New — but still ancient — grains will join the now-common spelt and quinoa. Teff and freekeh may be as familiar to us by the end of next year.

Nuts aren’t new either, but a Harvard study shows that nut eaters live longer and lose weight. Tada: next year’s favorite snack food.

Another study finds we threw out 40 percent of our food last year. Now grocery auctions offer unsold food, and even the former president of Trader Joe’s will open a market selling perfectly good food that’s just past its sell-by date.

Vegetarianism is no longer just for vegetarians. While most Americans still eat meat, 47 percent of the country eats at least one vegetarian meal a week.

Cauliflower, by the way, is the new Brussels sprout.

Eating local is going into overdrive. Restaurants and markets have planted gardens and built farms — on the ground and on the roof.

And if you can’t grow it, you can buy it from professional foragers, who will bring chickweed and chanterelles to chefs and consumers.

Small-scale meat producers will be available as we continue to fret about industrial farming. Expect more goat, rabbit and pigeon — or squab, if that makes you feel better.

The meats may be flavored with za’atar or sumac, which should easier to find as we dig deeper into the foods of the Mideast.

From the Middle East we go to the Middle West for simple, hearty cooking. The Food Network names the Midwestern food movement as the No. 1 trend for 2014. You betcha.

Dessert? Ice cream sandwiches. Probably made with tea leaves.

Bonny Wolf is managing editor of and editor of NPR’s Kitchen Window.

How a cup of nettle tea changed my life

A member of the Muckleshoot tribe, Valerie Segrest knew something was missing from her diet, but she wasn’t expecting the change it would bring.

By Valerie Segrest,

Four years ago, when I was studying nutrition at Bastyr University in Seattle, I came to class to find a cup of tea waiting for me. My instructor said we would be doing a meditation: We would sit in silence for three minutes and drink tea. She instructed us to pay attention to how this warm beverage made us feel.

I was already immersed in an environment that preached the benefits of a good diet. My diet was pristine. On certain days, I was obsessed with eating the right things, like leafy greens and organic, whole carrots, which I cut myself rather than risk buying the baby-cut varieties that are washed in chlorinated water. But I was still sick quite often and couldn’t put my finger on what was lacking.

I am a Muckleshoot Indian, but other than the occasional seafood dish, little of what I ate then bore much connection with the landscape I lived in, which had fed my ancestors for many generations.

My body immediately responded to this tea. It was as if I were remembering what it was like to feel well. I was rooted and energized. When our three-minute silence ended, the instructor circled around the room and asked us to describe how we felt. Some people said they felt calmed, some said comforted.

Still stunned, I continued to sit in silence. The teacher announced we had just experienced wild stinging nettle tea.

I proceeded to drink nettle tea instead of water every day. I walked around with jars of nettle-tea infusions and talked to anyone who asked about how amazing this plant was. I began to visit patches of nettles in the woods near my house and everywhere else I could find the plants.

I read everything I could on the nettle. I drew it. I sat with it. I stung myself with it. I harvested and ate it. I bathed in its beautiful, rich juice. I had never felt so strong, energized, and healthy.

I call nettle my first plant teacher. From the moment I drank the juices of this plant, I became an advocate, passionate about the native foods of the Pacific Northwest. Currently, my work as a nutrition educator takes me to tribal communities throughout Washington state. Everywhere I go, I hear stories about the ways native foods heal people. Elders remind me that problems like diabetes and heart disease were almost nonexistent in our communities until we began to lose access to foods like salmon, huckleberries, elk and wild greens. These foods are nutrient-dense, and they bless us with a true sense of place.

From Muckleshoot oral traditions, I have learned that plants and animals teach us how to live. How can we be like salmon, who return each year to their ancestral rivers and give their lives in order to feed the land, plants, animals and humans? How can we transform our behaviors and habits to fit our natural surroundings, like the 20 different varieties of huckleberries that grow wild from the seashore to the mountaintops?

Since that moment with the cup of nettle tea, I have become committed to sharing the abundance of wild foods, praying for their return and celebrating their presence in the world.

Nettle Tea Time

Elise Krohn, Northwest Indian College herbalist and educator

Nettles are one of our favorite plants because they are so nutritious and so delicious.  Late spring is the perfect time to harvest nettles and dry them for tea.  Later in the summer fibrous stems can be made into strong cordage.

Description:  Stinging nettle (scientific name Urtica) is a perennial herb with opposite deep green leaves with serrated edges and tiny greenish flowers.  Stems are square like mint.  Nettle grows 3-7 feet tall.  The stalk and underside of leaves are covered with stinging hairs that rise from a gland containing formic acid.  Nettle is common in streambeds and disturbed areas with rich wet soil from the coast into the mountains.  Do not gather nettles in agricultural or industrial areas because they may absorb inorganic nitrites and heavy metals.

Nettle contains:  Formic acid in fresh plant, galacturonic acid, vitamin C, histamine, 5-hydroxytryptamine, choline and acetylcholine, vitamins A and D, iron, sodium, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, silica, trace minerals and a good amount of protein (more than beans!).

How to Harvest: Gloves or scissors are usually used to harvest nettles.  Nettles are most potent when gathered in early spring before flowering, usually from March-May.   To dry nettles, bundle them and hang them upside down in a dark dry place, or place them in a paper bag and rotate them every few days until dry.  Strip the leaves off the stem and store away from sunlight.  Stems are gathered for fiber when the plant is mature in summer to early fall.

nettledrying  nettlehanging

Historic uses

Nettles have been revered worldwide throughout the ages for food, fiber and medicine.  Many Northwest Coastal People traditionally ate nettles as a nutritious spring food.  They were also used as a dye with shades ranging from yellow to deep green.  The fiber makes strong cordage and was used for making strong fishing line and fishnets.  Two thousand-year-old nettle clothing was found in China and still remains intact.

A fascinating use for nettles is urtication, or flogging oneself with this stinging plant. Both in the Pacific Northwest and in Europe, people have stung themselves to cure arthritic joints and to stay awake and alert during battle or hunting.  Traditional knowledge is now validated by scientific research.  Compounds including histamine, acetylcholine and formic acid are injected into tissue causing an awakening of cellular responses, lymph flow, nerve stimulation and capillary stimulation.



Nettles are impressively high in chlorophyll, vitamins, minerals, protein and amino acids. They are often called a “superfood” and are one of the highest plant sources of digestible iron.  This can be helpful for anemic conditions, menstruation, pregnancy and lactation. Gather nettles to eat fresh before they flower as old leaves contain cystoliths that may irritate the kidneys.  This compound is destroyed when the plant is dried, so gathering nettles after flowering is fine to prepare dried herb tea or powder, although leaves are most potent before flowering.  There are many ways to prepare nettles for food including:

Boil – boil nettles for 5-15 minutes.  The water can then be drunk as a tea.
Can – follow general instructions for canning spinach.
Freeze – either steam or boil nettles until just cooked, rinse in cold water, let drain and place in freezer bags for later use.
Sauté – Sauté until they look fully cooked, usually about 5 minutes.
Steam – place nettles in a colander and steam for 5-10 minutes.

Stringing nettle soup


Cooked nettles can then be used in quiches, casseroles, meat pies, egg scrambles, etc.  Dried nettles can also be added to soups and other foods in the same way dried herb and spices would be.  They are a delicious addition to clam chowder

Wash nettles, cut finely with scissors and set aside.  In a large soup pot, sauté onions and garlic in olive oil or 3-5 minutes.  Add water, potatoes, corn and nettles, then bring to a boil.   Simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.  Blend all ingredients in a blender or a food processor (optional).  Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.


Nettle Pesto

Try tossing this with pasta, potatoes or cooked vegetables.  It can also be spread on crackers or fresh vegetables as a snack.

1 small bag (about 6 cups) of young fresh nettles, rinsed
1 bunch basil, stems removed, washed and drained (about 2 cups leaves)
½  cup Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated
1/3 cup walnuts or pine nuts
1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
I clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil nettles in water (blanch) for one minute to remove the sting.  Drain well, let cool and roughly chop.  Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender.  Blend until smooth.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Place the pesto in a clean jar and pour a little extra olive oil over the top.  Cover with a lid.  This will keep for 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator.


Green Sesame Salt

1 cup sesame seeds
¼ cup powdered nettles
2 teaspoons salt

Toast sesame seeds over medium heat in a dry pan.  They will pop, brown, and when done, will have a toasted aroma and deep golden appearance.  Grind with salt in a coffee grinder or blender.  Add nettle powder (this can also be ground in a coffee grinder).  Blend all ingredients and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator.   This condiment can be sprinkled on rice, sautés or soups.



Nettles can help bring the body back to a state of balance.  If someone is feeling debilitated or generally worn down, nettles are a good remedy.  They are tonic to the liver, blood and kidneys.  Herbalists consider nettles a reliable diuretic that balances blood pH and filters waste from the body including uric acid.  This can be especially useful for arthritis, gout, eczema and skin rashes.  Nettles have a solid reputation as a haemostatic, or a remedy to stop bleeding.  A strong decoction is traditionally used to treat wounds and hemorrhage.  They can help build blood after menstruation, birth or other blood loss.

Many people say that nettles help to alleviate allergies.  As a preventative for hay fever, drink 2 cups of nettle tea a day starting early in the spring and continuing into the allergy season.  When nettles are fresh, tinctured or freeze-dried they have anti-histamine qualities that may be effective for acute allergic reactions.  Nettles are both astringent and anti-inflammatory, which helps with the symptoms of allergies and many other complaints.  Rosemary or horsetail with nettle are made into a tea and used as a hair rinse to make the hair glossy and stimulate growth.



Tea:  Use 1 tablespoon of dried nettles per cup of boiled water.  Steep 15 minutes to several hours.  Drink 1-3 cups a day.  You can make a large batch of tea and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  It is fine to drink the tea hot or cold.  Nettle blends well with mint.



Nettle fiber is renowned for it’s durability and has been used for making fishnets, ropes, clothing, and even bed linens.  Cut stems at the base and strip the leaves from the stem (wear thick gloves).  If you are working with fresh nettles, split the stems in half, cutting length-wise with a sharp knife.  Take a rolling pin or round stick to flatten the half-stems.  You can even beat them with a stick or a flat rock to help separate the outer fiber from the inner woody stem.  Carefully separate the outer fibers, trying to keep them long.  Let these fibers dry in a basket or a paper bag.  If you are working with dry nettle stems you can soak them to make them easier to work with.  Continue as above by splitting the stems, flattening them and carefully removing the fiber.  The fiber can then be braided or twisted and made into strong cordage.

Brennnessel / Stinging nettle