One of my favorite wild greens while traveling in Central America during the past couple of years was the West Indian Wood Nettle (Laportea aestuans). It was fitting that I was able to continue my love affair with nettles. This plant has a smattering of names it is known by, including Urtica aestuans and Fleurya aestuans. I found it to be a common, abundant plant in much of Panama. It has a weedy nature and was recently discovered and red flagged in Hawaii with a New Pest Advisory.
I first learned of this plant through the book ‘Edible Leaves of the Tropics‘, one of the few tropical resources for my beloved wild greens. I found its leaves to have a more condensed and fuzzy texture than the Woodnettle (Laportea canadensis) and Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) I am familiar with in North America. Upon cooking, it was more easily mashed into a paste than its North American cousins.
A friend suffering from osteoporosis was thrilled when I advised he include large amounts of this plant in his daily diet, especially in bone broths. This particular study (click here) found the plant to have 638 mg/100g of calcium per serving…that’s significant! Although I recommended he stop smoking and drinking carbonated beverages for greater impact, it was nice to again share in the gifts the wild plants offer. This exchange with hundreds, if not thousands, of people during my sailing adventure through the Caribbean was deeply nourishing.