Nettle and Goat Golden Milk: Symbiotic Nourishment
It’s often said that one cannot exist in a vacuum. Indeed, it is our relationships with friends, family, and our community that support us and nourish us as we navigate the ups and downs of life. Perhaps you also have friends that serve different purposes - one to get out into the woods with, one you love to just talk to about anything and everything, one to go to when you’re feeling scared. Many friends serve multiple purposes, as friendships are gloriously multi-faceted. We exist in symbiosis with the people around us, an inter-connected web holding each other up through our tangle of relationships and love.
Plants are often like that, too. Healthy groves of trees rely on the mycelium of mushrooms to assist them in everything from taking up nutrients to passing messages to other trees. Legumes like peas fix nitrogen into depleted soil to make a fertile ground for the next generation of plants. Little old ladies bury potassium-rich banana peels below their tomato plants to give them extra nutrients and then get lovelier tomatoes. Everywhere you look there are relationships in nature, wild things all growing to work together. It makes sense that those relationships might transfer to the kitchen, too.
Humans have evolved alongside fire. When our ancient ancestors first began using fire to cook, our bodies changed to match our newly soften foods. We no longer needed the strong jaws of our predecessors as meat was now cooked and tender. We learned to process the new wave of nutrients available to us, released by that heat. Sometimes other discoveries were made - like processing hard-to-digest ears of corn with lime to make the nutrients locked inside so much easier to absorb. We know that a splash of vinegar in a pot of boiling bones helps to release healthy collagens and proteins in the same way we understand that a little cream of tartar helps egg whites beat up into frothy perfection.
I love to think about relationships when I bake. I think about the relationships between the plants I have foraged. I think about the relationships of the flavors in my food. I think about the relationships that form around a dining table, of cooking for friends and family. Of sharing. Of nurturing. And if there’s one drink that epitomizes the idea of relationship for me, it is Golden Milk.
This beautiful drink, based on an ancient Ayurvedic practice (though some say the drink itself originated in Japan), is a nourishing tonic alone, but the addition of goat’s milk protein and nutritious stinging nettle makes it even more nurturing. In the thousands of years old Ayurvedic tradition, this mixture is thought to naturally strengthen the essential energy of life, know os Ojas (which roughly translates to “vigor.”) I created this blend so it would be suitable to drink as a daily tonic and as easy as stirring a spoonful of goodness into some hot water. I adapted the ancient recipes to fit my own body and resources. Here’s what’s in it:
Nettle is one of the most nutritious greens around. It’s very high in iron, calcium, vitamin A, and manganese. It’s often taken as an herbal supplement for older women who know it does wonders for strengthening bones and helping the body to absorb calcium. It’s a mild diuretic, helping the kidneys to eliminate waste. It can help to decrease seasonal allergies when taken as a supplement. It’s also a voracious weed, and easy to find in both spring and fall. I keep a stash of dried nettles on hand for projects just like this one!
Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory spice with a long history of use in Asian healthcare practices. For good reason, too - the cucurmin it contains is a very strong antioxidant and has been proven to be effective at reducing inflammation in numerous scientific studies. The cucurmin is not very easily absorbed on its own, but the piperine in black pepper allows it to be much more bioavailable. It’s also best absorbed with a little fat or protein, such as ghee or the goat’s milk protein below.
Goat’s milk protein is a wonderful source of easily digestible protein, as well as packed full of amino acids and glutathione - which is a made up of three amino acids and is thought to offer antioxidant effects and stimulate the immune system. All of those amino acids have a soothing and supportive effect on the body, leading to more restful sleep. Goat’s milk is often more digestible than cow’s milk for anyone with sensitivities or intolerances. You can substitute this ingredient for powdered coconut milk if you’re vegan, but be aware that you won’t be getting the same health benefits.
Warming spices, like cinnamon, ginger, and pepper, also act as anti-inflammatories. Ginger especially is also soothing to the stomach and helps to prevent nausea and stomach pain. It adds a pleasant warmth and flavor to this brew.
This drink is such a beautiful example of community in a cup. The fat in the milk and the ground pepper help your body absorb more of the anti-inflammatory effects of the turmeric. The nettles help you absorb the calcium available in the whey protein. The warming ginger helps to keep your stomach happy, which means it also supports the absorption of all of the other ingredients as well. It is a drink of harmony, a soothing and uplifting treat before bedtime (though you can drink it any other time during the day too!)
1 1/2 c. goat milk protein powder
3/4 c. powdered coconut milk
1/4 c. powdered turmeric
1/4 c. powdered stinging nettles
2 Tbs. powdered ginger
1 tsp. Freshly-ground black pepper
2 tsp. Powdered cinnamon
½ tsp. Freshly ground nutmeg
½ tsp. Freshly ground cardamom
1 c. sugar of choice (date, coconut, etc.)
1 Tbs. tapioca starch
If you’re using dried whole nettle (instead of powdered), you’ll need to powder it yourself. Though most of the stinging hairs dissipate when nettle is dried, I’ve found that it’s still best to wear gloves at this stage to avoid the occasional stings. Use a small coffee or spice grinder to grind your nettle into a fine powder. Sift it through a fine sieve to remove any stringy or hard pieces, then measure it out appropriately. Be careful not to inhale any of the powder, since it can be irritating to the sinuses!
You may also need to grind your spices beforehand. Fresh nutmeg can be grated using a fine grater. Peppercorns can be grated with a spice grinder. Cardamom seeds removed from the pods can be ground into a powder using a mortar and pestle.
Finally, mix everything together into one glorious golden milk mix. To use, add 1 heaping Tbs. to a mug of hot water. (You may use more or less depending on taste.) This mixture is fairly concentrated, so you might want to mix 1 heaping tsp. of it right into your milk of choice and add sweetener to taste.
Try garnishing your drink with grated nutmeg, a sprinkle of turmeric or cinnamon, or even whipped cream!
Embracing “The Golden Hour”
Some proponents of Golden Milk also see it as a gateway to reflection and a personal practice. After you make your drink, sit down without any other distractions and just pay attention to the experience of sipping your drink. Notice the bright green color. Smell the warming spices. Notice how the drink feels going down your throat and into your belly. Let yourself be present and relaxed. You should feel comfortable and pleasantly warm after finishing your cup - the perfect ritual to do in the evening to start preparing the body to wind down for a restful night of sleep.
This drink is also particularly well-suited for sharing with visitors! It’s as beautiful as it is delicious, and so very easy to whip up for unexpected guests. Try using it as a way to connect by removing distractions and electronics and just staying present with your guest or guests. As you sip your golden elixir, feel the warmth of community fill you just as your drink does. Remember, all of life is one big beautiful web, and you are part of it.
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