Foraging Friday's: Nettles

Nettle or more commonly known as stinging nettle is today's plant of interest!

I know, I know I picked another extremely annoying "weed" and this one is even more annoying than the last! But if you remember what a hidden gem the last one was you will want to keep reading this post! If you missed last weeks foraging Friday featured plant, the dandelion, you can find it here:

Now back to this weeks super star! Nettle has so many uses that it makes the extra care needed in harvesting completely worth it (more on that in a minute). Nettle is very high in vitamins and minerals, its amazing as a tea for many ailments, it is used in a wide variety of culinary delights such as pesto's, soups, I've even seen people use them in homemade noodles! Another neat area this plant comes in handy is in a natural green fertilizer tea for your garden plants (pictured below)!

Lets get into the nutrients of nettle a bit.

I have lots of childhood memories of getting stung by stinging nettle – I grew up in the woods in Iowa on the banks of the Wapsi river and the stuff is everywhere!  Being the adventurous, outdoor-loving tom boy that I was, getting stung was just inevitable. But in spite of its stinging, nettle is one of nature’s powerhouse herbs and well worth the effort of harvesting. Which really is only the addition of long sleeves and a good pair of gloves that prevent the tiny spines or "hairs" on the plant ( its natural defense against animals) from poking through and causing that stinging feeling. Stinging nettle is rich in vitamins A, C, D, K, as well as B complex vitamins, and it’s also rich in many minerals including iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, iodine, sulfur, silicon and silica. It also has a high amount of protein for a plant

Nettle's have also been used traditionally for medicinal purposes>

Nettles have been used over the ages for many purposes, such as for a body detox, boost the immune system,improve energy levels, increase circulation, improve metabolic efficiency, treat anemia, relieve arthritis, rheumatism, and muscular pain, manage menstruation, minimize menopausal symptoms, regulate hormonal activity, promote lactation, stimulate hair growth, treat bladder infections, treat enlarged prostates, regulate blood sugar in diabetics, protect gallbladder and kidney health, treat gingivitis, provide asthma relief, treat hemorrhoids, relieve water retention, increase muscle mass, lower inflammation, prevent hay fever symptoms, improve respiratory conditions, and lower blood pressure (this last one is great for some peoplewith high blood pressure but those, like myself with dysautonomia need to limit its use.)

Cosmetically nettle is great to add into a herbal hair rinse to add shine to your hair, good for healing skin conditions (e.g., acne and prevent bacterial infections), I use it in salve form often and include it in my wound salve for my first aid kit, I also use it in my pet healing salve for my dogs paws and for hot spots.

You can also use it in the form of a compress in tea or powdered form, to treat warts, burns, wounds and stings (ironically) in its dried form nettle no longer stings when you touch it. Same as when it is cooked.

Honestly If it wasn't for the fact that in its raw form it has the downfall of stinging you I truly believe it would be is supermarkets far surpassing Kale in it nutritional values as well as medicinal qualities. I have seen nettles at some farmers markets though.

How to harvest and identify wild nettle

When harvesting nettle it is important to always wear long sleeves, pants and gloves so as to prevent the hairs on the nettle from stinging you. Nettles will begin popping up in early spring, and can be found all across North America. Its proper habitat is in sunny places where there is rich, moist soil. You’ll find them growing along rivers, streams, lakes, ditches, fence rows, and on the edges of cultivated farm fields. When my sister and I would walk along the banks of the Wapsi river as kids, we always noticed it growing abundantly as a “weed.”

Stinging nettle will grow in large clusters, and stalks can reach 5-8 feet at maturity. Leaves are about 2-5 inches long , they have jagged edges.  Leaves are pointed at the tips, with a heart-shaped base and indented veins. The plant will have small “hairs” up the stalk and stems. (This is where the sting comes from!)

Young plants will have smaller, heart-shaped leaves with a purple hue, while mature plants have longer, pointed leaves that appear very green.

Cooking with Nettles

We have eaten nettles since I was a kid, I am blessed to have grown up with parents who were foragers and passed this information down to me and I am passing it on to my children as well as you! The quickest way is to boil or saute nettles like spinach or other greens, nettles loose their sting when cooked or dried. Drying and powdering nettles to add to soups, stews and baked goods or in smoothies for a hidden bit of nutrition is another way i use it (with three picky kids you get creative) this also takes up less space and makes it very usable for tea and salves. I have mixed it with basil and other greens as a pesto to put over noodles. Iv'e been trying my hand at making homemade noodles and plan to add the powder into my noodles as well. Here are are a few links of recipes I plan to try from another blog I found!

Nettle for the garden:

As I mentioned above you can make a fabulous garden tea from nettle as an organic fertilizer!

The nutrients in stinging nettle fertilizer are those same nutrients the plant contains which are beneficial to the human body such as many minerals, flavinoids, essential amino acids, proteins and vitamins. Here are two methods to use nettles in the garden.

Quick method: For the quick method, steep 1 of nettles in 1 cup of boiling water for 20 minutes to an hour, then strain the leaves and stems out and toss in the compost bin. Dilute the fertilizer 1:10 and it’s ready for use. This second method is what I prefer. The long method: to make nettle garden fertilizer begin by filling a large jar or bucket with the leaves and stems, bruising the foliage first. Weight down the nettles with a brick, paving stone, or whatever you have laying around and then cover with water. Only fill three-quarters of the bucket with water to allow room for the foam that will be created during the brewing process. Set this in the sun for several days, its best to use rain water. This will be stinky and you will need to use caution because the nettle is in its raw form and still is able to sting you. This fertilizer is great for heavy feeders but be careful to use it sparingly on plants that don't do well with plants who don't like heavy iron , such as tomato's and roses.

I could go on and on about this plant but this post is defiantly a good place to start!

As always God bless you and I hope this post helps you in your quest to learn more about the power of plants!

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