[oh] Hello Nettles

At a United Plant Savers Conference in Rhode Island, Susun Weed spoke on the wonders of Stinging Nettles ( Urtica dioica ), or Sister Spinster as she calls it in her book Healing Wise.  Her main focus was on its energy-restoring properties.  The results sounded like bliss: Wake up in the morning feeling energized, and maintain that energy throughout the day.  This is going to be big, this is going to need time, this can be our future.  Nettles – 2011.  Au revoir, cafe.  Oh hello Nettles!

borrowed from darwincountry.org

I actually began this Experimence in the Fall of 2010, harvesting mowed-Nettles regrowth.  It is best to get the small young Nettles or the fragile tops on mowed/cut plants (as I have done).  This is due to the difference in attributes between young and old Nettles.  Many will agree that the older leaves are tougher and have a less desirable taste.  I remember hearing that the minerals become somewhat inaccessible at the later stage of growth…correct me if I’m wrong.

borrowed from gardenpharmacy.us

I walked through the fertile meadows once a week to gather the Nettles.  They prefer to grow in very healthy soil, just as her healing makes you a healthy, mineral-rich person.  I placed them in one-layer along the bottom of a crate with wide air holes to let them dry.  I would toss them about every other day to avoid concentrations of moisture, which could eventually lead to mold.

You need lots of air flow when drying herbs, as well as low light.  It’s ideal to keep them away from dusty areas, but a little dirt won’t hurt.  Once the Nettles are dry I put them in a big paper bag, and when I’m sure they’re incredibly dry I put them in a glass jar with a lid to cure. I packed these beauties up last night and decided to keep some of them in a small paper bag so I wouldn’t have to crush them.  The rest I crushed lightly into a pint glass jar and closed it up.  I am excited to compare the flavor and aroma of each storing method!

Just saying Nettles is exciting.  It reminds me of their prickly hairs, which I enjoy.  In Rhode Island we call it “Seven-Minute-Itch” on account it stings for approximately seven minutes.  I think that’s why I like it. The sting is sharp and awakening, but it doesn’t last forever.  I have had experiences where it ends up being more like seven-hour-itch, but those occasions are rare.  The word Urtica has many related forms in several languages and they all suggest ‘irritation caused by a sting’,  Dioica or Dioico relating to the specific gender of each plant.  Stinging Nettles comes in male or female.  The seeds are medicinal and collected by herbalists.  I tend to just use the leaf and stem, but it is common to also use the root.  The whole plant has a purpose to people.

Have you ever experienced Nettles?

Stay tuned for more on the Nettles Experiment throughout the year!



5 thoughts on “[oh] Hello Nettles

  1. My first experience with nettles was many moons ago on a nature walk. I was wearing shorts and I brushed up against them. The pain was excruciating. But the group leader pointed out some jewelweed growing nearby and showed me how to crush it up and apply it to the red swollen area on my leg. It was a miracle how quickly it alleviated the pain.

    More recently, at a talk by Jim Duke at his Green Farmacy, he demonstrated how nettle is good for arthritis by beating his legs with it. Apparently this “urtication” stimulates the body’s release of histamines, which can alleviate some of the stiffness cause by the arthritis.

    And I know that Euell Gibbons was a huge fan of steamed nettle as a great source of iron and calcium. I have yet to try harvesting and cooking them, still having that early painful memory in the back of my mind, but you have inspired me to give them a try! N

    • The way to Nettles heart is through recognition. Such a mineral rich herb wanting to donate herself – Just looking for a little attention with the sting, and another means of healing. I noticed if I scout out the patches and say hello, they won’t sting even if I accidentally brush into them later in the season. Also, while harvesting you can pinch the hairs on the stem firmly and they won’t sting.

  2. Love nettles! Will be very interested in reading your further adventures. I drink nettle infusion, and have been to Susun Weed’s place for a work exchange weekend. I was assigned to help harvest the nettle patch, which I did without gloves. It was my first experience with nettles. My fingers were numb/tingling for about 24 hours. The wrists did not escape either. However, I have a problematic wrist, from my job mousing at a computer all day, so I enjoyed the stimulation and benefits of the nettle.
    This summer, whenever I come across my friend Nettle, I plan to self-flagelate my wrist. It is actually kind of fun!

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