Updated: Mar 25, 2020
I used to absolutely hate stinging nettle. I could walk through a patch of poison ivy with no problems but get within 3 feet from stinging nettle and I would instantly itch. Psychosomatic? Yes. I think I’m starting to itch just thinking about it.
When I started studying the plants around me I came across that terrible plant again. Ugg Nettles. Then I gave them a chance. I learned that not only are they good to eat, but they are a powerhouse of nutrients and have some great herbal medicine packed in that torturous stingy pokey plant
Nettles are a native plant that grow everywhere here in Wisconsin, maybe in your own backyard. It is a good plant to get familiar with so that you can identify it and avoid touching it.
Nettle has little stingers (trichomes) on it that are filled with a histamine and a few other chemicals. These are the plant's defense mechanisms. Then you brush up against the plant, it releases this onto the skin. Luckily there are usually other plants that grow alongside it, that will soothe the sting like Plantain or Jewelweed along with a few others. There is a very careful way to harvest the plant bare handed without getting stung, but for the amateur, I recommend long, thick gloves.
We want to harvest Nettle in the springtime when the plant is under 1.5 feet tall. Don’t harvest a plant once it has started to flower, the chemicals in the plant change to ones that our liver has a hard time with.
Nettle is full of some great vitamins and nutrients. Vitamins A, B6, K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium, Zinc, Copper, Manganese, Selenium.
So how do we get this plant into our body when it lets us know that it does not want to be touched, let alone consumed? There are 2 ways. If you are going to use the nettle later for a tea or tincture, you can let it dry out either by hanging it upside down in a shade airy place, or if you want to cook with it you need to boil it one or two times. I like to add nettle to all my tea blends to enhance their nutrients and get it into my body every day.
There are many ways to eat nettles. My favorite is Nettle Pesto (recipe below) on top of Nettle noodles (of course), nettle fritters, nettle soup, and as a puree and filling.
1. Put a pot of water on and when it is boiling, dump the fresh nettles in for just one minute.
2. Strain well and get as much water out as possible. Add nettles to the blender or food processor.
3. Add garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, sea salt, lemon juice and cheese if you're using it.
4. Pulse until smooth and creamy and salt to taste.
Nettles as medicine. In times gone by people used to flog themselves with nettle and use the sting to get rid of arthritic pain. Today we use them to combat allergies, help the skin, kidneys, urinary, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and gout. Always check with your doctor to see if nettle will interact with any of your current medications.
This spring get out there and start searching for nettles and let us change the reputation of this wonderful, but itchy plant.
Sources *1 www.nakedcuisine.com/nettle-pesto/