(The picture above is of a young wood nettle.)
I've been meaning to write about the wonderful nettle plant for a while now. Nettles are one of those miracle plants that are ridiculously good for you, as well as also providing the human family with cordage, cloth, and tasty beer or wine. However it is getting close to when the wood nettles I gather will flower, and then they are not so good to eat. I've read that after stinging nettle (urtica dioica) and wood nettles (larportea candadensis) flower, that consuming them could cause kidney damage. Plus, they get pretty tough and gravelly so they're just not as good as in the early spring. So, I want to go harvest more nettles while I can! Of course, you can harvest nettles in the summer and use them dried for a terrific tea or infusion.
Wood nettles grow in profusion here in our valley. Strangely enough, I have yet to find stinging nettles here. Wood nettles are just as packed with nutrition, vitamins and minerals, as the stinging nettle, so if you find wood nettles, feel free to use them just as you would stinging nettles. Wood nettles sting just as much as stinging nettles, so beware!
Wood nettles like to grow by forest streams or rivers. Stinging nettles prefer sunny areas. If you have a creek or stream or river near you, look along the banks for nettles. If you get stung by the nettles, jewelweed is usually growing nearby. Cut the stem of the jewelweed and it will ease the nettles sting. So do dock and plantain leaves. Stick some plantain in your pocket before heading out to gather nettles.
So, rather than read me trying to give you a full appreciation of nettles, read this article at Susan Weed's Wise Woman's Herbal Zine, here. I just read it this morning, and it will tell you all I would have said about nettles only better. Corinna Wood does a great job. The herbalists who write for Susan Weed's ezine have a habit of referring to their favorite plants as "she." That's fine by me, the info is there and well-presented.
If you are feeling run-down or under the weather, an infusion of nettles is invaluable. It's very healing. Expressed nettle juice has been used to good effect with convalescing patients in many countries. The infusion is green and very tasty. It even tastes green. I use a tiny bit of sea salt in mine and the infusion, warm or cold, is welcomed by my entire body.
I have many quarts of nettles frozen already, a gallon or so of nettle wine, and a quart jar of nettle tincture. But I need more! Both for eating and drying, since I want to have a good supply of it dried for winter-time tea.
I'll leave you with "The Glory of Nettles," then, and I'll go do what I really want to do: harvest more nettles!
Here's a couple of paragraphs from Wood's article, just as a teaser. Do read the entire article:
So why would you want to meddle with nettle? She is a veritable cornucopia of nutrients: calcium, magnesium, iron, B complex vitamins, C complex, vitamins A, D and K. She has protein, cobalt, trace minerals, potassium, zinc, copper and sulphur.
Nettles are especially rich in chlorophyll, which is only one molecule removed from hemoglobin, so they feed the blood. Add in nettle’s bounty of iron and it adds up to a fortifying tonic for anyone who is anemic or for pregnant, lactating, or menstruating women.
Nettle has also long been revered for its benefits to the kidneys and adrenals. The kidneys allow us to expel toxins and the adrenals help us to respond to stress (think adrenaline), so given the challenges of modern life, most folks can benefit profoundly from nettle’s medicinal properties. Additionally, she offers relief from seasonal allergies, strengthens the bones, hair and nails and nurtures the lungs, nervous, hormonal and immune systems – that covers a lot of ground.
One of the wonderful things about nettle is that her nutritional benefits are delivered in a very balanced form and are easily assimilated and absorbed into our systems.
Nettle is one of my favorite foraged foods. As such, I'll come back to it later. In the meantime, enjoy the article!