I love the month of March. In particular, I love the dramatic intensity of the weather this time of year brings: the sudden rain followed by the sudden break of sunshine; the cleansing wild winds followed by stillness; the noticable lengthening of daylight past Equinox; the cheerful twittering of birds; lambs and calves peppering the newly green fields where I live, and of course the nettles!
Every part of the nettle plant is edible: root, leaf, stalk, and seed.
Spring nettles are nutritionally dense. All the vitality of the plant is pushing upwards
towards the sun, grasping for the rich nutrients of sunlight that are then metabolized in the plant offering those who eat it a broad spectrum of every mineral and vitamin one would ever need. In particular the plant is rich in iron, calcium, vitamin A, and trace minerals. Nettle is an herb that powerfully supports the kidney’s and adrenals, but really improves function for every organ and gland in the body. As it’s an effective (yet gentle) diuretic, be careful to not drink too much close to bedtime, or else you’ll be up several times to take a trip to the bathroom!
In addition to the phenomenal benefits to the kidney’s & adrenals, nettle promotes lactation for nursing women (and other animals), is used in the treatment of eczema, hives, allergies, hayfever, tonifies the gallbladder, liver, soothes intestinal ulcers, asthma, inflammatory conditions of any nature, and balances blood sugar levels (I use it for this).
For deep nourishment, drink 2 cups of fresh nettle tea (of leaf and stalk) every day. Many comment on a noticable improvment to the quality and shine of skin, hair, eyes and general energy level. This is a reflection of the rich treasure trove of minerals and vitamins. Next to my grandmother, I learned much of what I know about nettle from beloved herbalist and later , herbalist and beekeeper.
Fresh nettle can be used in cooking just about anywhere you’d otherwise use spinach. Yes, that means spanokopita, lasagna, stirfries, soup and steam like any other green vegetable! The little “stinging” hairs are eliminated once cooked. You can also make pesto with it – fresh not steamed or cooked!! – then freeze it to enjoy all winter! When its put into a blender, the stinging hairs vanish.
One of my all-time favourite ways to use nettle is as a gomasio (Japanese seasoning) of equal parts dried nettle leaf, dulse flakes, and sesame seeds. Here’s a photo of the one I have in my kitchen
Just sprinkle on veggies, rice, etc. It’s really delicious!
You can also harvest some to dry thereby enjoy all year. Nettle infusion (that is make a strong tea and steep it covered for 20 minutes or more) is far more nutritive then ANY vitamin you’d ever purchase. Here’s how to harvest nettle to dry:
1. With sharp kitchen scissors, snip several inches of nettle tops into a basket or brown paper bag. You may wish to wear gloves, as the nettles do sting! This is the formic acid (which by the way is a natural medicine unto itself and not exactly toxic).
Do not take the entire plant unless there are plenty left behind. This is out of respect to the natural world and plant communities.
When you snip portions of a plant, ensure you’ve left behind the remaining stalk with green leaves which will allow the plant to continue to be nourished by the sun, and continue to grow.
2. When I bring home my nettle harvest, I lay out large sheets of newspaper, or large flat drying baskets, and snip the nettle (stalks and leaves) in small pieces on to the paper/baskets. I spread them out so there’s plenty of room for air to circulate. I do this in a dry room avoiding direct sunlight on the plant material. I shake them daily, and when they are nice and dry and crispy, they are ready to put into a jar, and are stored in my kitchen cupboard. This affords a delicious, mineral rich tea year round! Don’t forget to label your medicine with the full name, date, and where you harvested.
Simply boil some water in a kettle, and pour 2 cups of that water over a good handful of fresh or dried nettles. Cover. Steep for at least 20 minutes and enjoy!
P.S. your compost will love the exhausted nettles post-tea, and any left over liquid your house plants will love to drink! Nettles have long since been used in organic gardening to re-mineralize soil just like they do to our bodies….