Nettle (Urtica diotica) is also commonly referred to as “Stinging Nettle”, as the stalk and under-side of it’s leaves are coated in thin, sharp ecofibers that cause much discomfort when they come into contact with human skin (note: it is completely safe to digest once it has been heated, frozen or dried). Traditionally speaking, consuming nettle is a way to “welcome the spring” – doing a detoxifying, spring cleaning of the body as well as preparing it for various allergies as the season unfolds.
Appearances: Nettle can be found throughout the United States preferring moist, rich soil in partially shaded areas. It’s tall, fibrous stem can grow up to 4′ tall and is typically one stalk (“unbranched”). The vibrant green leaves grow on alternating sides, with sharply toothed edges and protruding veins. As mentioned above, the stem and leaves are coated with tiny fibers that release a painful formic acid when touched. Small, inconspicuous clusters of blossoms can be found at the bast of the leaves, which sprout tiny round seeds.
Benefits: Nettle is packed with many vitamins and minerals, and is used to treat a wide variety of ailments. One notable benefit is allergies (seasonal/pollen-related or skin allergies), as it increases the production of T cells which are vital to combatting allergies. Being extremely high in iron content, nettle has also been used for mineral deficiencies and anemia. Last but not least, and this is only naming very few of a long list, nettle can be used to treat joint pain, arthritis and other ailments related to swelling. Nettle is also used as a powerful detoxifier for the blood (kidneys) and the intestinal tract. The list goes on!
Harvesting & Recipes: The most commonly used part of the nettle plant are it’s leaves, however it’s roots are very powerful when used to soothe allergies. Always use proper gloves when harvesting this “stinging” plant in early spring. There are several ways to put this powerful plant to use, however I will focus on the tea and a couple of ways to include nettle in your diet! To make a tea, you can simple add a few dried leaves to your favorite green tea or boil one cup of fresh leaves for every two cups of water. Some other fun ways to incorporate nettle into your diet are tossing the cooked leaves into your salad greens, or to make nettle chips (much like kale chips).
Cheers to spring!