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Foraging: Stinging Nettles

A new thing I’ve been trying lately is foraging- using plants that are many times considered weeds as food or for herbal use. It’s amazing what is in your own backyard if you know where to look for it!

Stinging nettles are one of those plants that up until a few months ago, I considered a nuisance.  They grow all over the place; they sting and it hurts!!  I remember falling into a nettle patch as a kid and I’ve never thought of nettles fondly since then. The raised welts they leave sting so bad and then they itch- it’s just not fun to experience.

But-

Nettles actually have a lot of uses medicinally!

They are a diuretic, can help with hay fever and urinary tract infections, they help reduce inflammation so they can be useful for helping with arthritis pain. They are also high in iron and nettle capsules or tea is frequently suggested for pregnant women to help boost iron and to help reduce or prevent bleeding. (I drank nettle tea when I was pregnant with Eliana.)

I even read that if you’re stung by a nettle, rubbing another nettle on the sting can help reduce the pain. I don’t think I want to try that one though! I’ll just stick with rubbing plantain oil on it.

For a nice list of other things nettles can help with, go here.

Also, another great article on nettles is here, including how taking nettles can interfere with prescription medication you may be taking.

Always make sure herbal supplements are safe to take if you’re on medication, because some may severely change how your meds work. Don’t just assume it’s okay to take since it’s herbal!  

Okay, so if you want to go foraging for nettles, here’s where to look: they like disturbed areas- oftentimes near the road or somewhere that has been logged- the nettles on my parent’s property grow down where an old barn used to be, near the rubble pile of wood from when the barn collapsed. That also happens to be in a wild blackberry patch, so my foraging experience was somewhat prickly- in addition to getting stung, I also got caught by the blackberry thorns!

Here are what stinging nettles look like:

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They have wide, almost heart shaped leaves with notched edges and reddish stems with prickly hairs on the underside of the leaves as well as the stem. These are what sting you if you touch them.

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See those prickles? Those are what have the chemical in them that creates a stinging sensation when it comes in contact with your skin. Ouch!

They grow pretty tall- I’ve seen nettles taller than me and I’m 5’9! But you want to harvest them when they are first coming up out of the ground.

Make sure to wear gloves and long sleeves, and use scissors to cut just the top few leaves off the nettles- that’s the most tender part. They are less bitter. The best time to go nettle foraging is right now- in the spring, when the nettles are just springing out of the ground. Once they’ve been out a while they lose a lot of their potency and are tougher and, as I said, more bitter.

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 Even though I was wearing gloves, the sneaky hairs on those nettles got right through the knit part and still stung my hand!
I managed to get about half a paper grocery bag full of nettle tops. Not too shabby for just a few minute’s work!

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I brought them inside and put them in the china cabinet to dry, since I don’ t want them to get dusty or small fingers to try and grab them and get stung.

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Once they are dry, they don’t sting anymore. I’m going to crumble the nettles up and make my own tea blend with nettles, red clover flowers, chamomile and peppermint.

I might also sprinkle a bit into soups to add some more vitamins into our diet. Since it will just look like basil or oregano; no one will be the wiser. Mwahahaha! :)

Have you ever foraged nettles before? I”d love to hear about it!
Also, if you want to read about some of my other foraging adventures, check out my new foraging page.

 

This post shared at Wildcrafting Wednesday

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2 comments on “Foraging: Stinging Nettles

  1. bellavistafarm
    April 15, 2013

    We don’t have them growing wild here in Georgia but I am growing them from a cutting. Hopefully the plants will multiply! Thanks for sharing on Wildcrafting Wednesday!

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