Stinging Nettle, plant of many uses.
For many wild food and medicinal foragers alike, Stinging Nettle really has no equal and is one of the many native super foods.
Despite this nettle is most famed and often dislikes for the irritating sting that is appropriate for his name. The leaves and stems are covered with hair like spines that can penetrate the skin. These spines subsequently break off releasing a cocktail of chemicals. The stings are easily disabled in processing by crushing, steaming, boiling or soaking. My advice to you, wear gloves while collecting stinging nettle, you should be okay.
Stinging nettle can be found on almost any waste grounds, country roads or long hedges in and around the city or country. If you cut a patch of stinging nettle back to the ground it will grow back thick and strong within days during the growing season. Stinging nettle has creeping rhizomes which are very hard to contain, unless you replant it in a container.
Stinging Nettle has been used for food, fuel, medicine, and for making things for the household such as sheets and tablecloth. Romans used nettle to thrash themselves, knowing that the rush of blood would provide relief from cold conditions. In World War II the Germans had uniforms made and spun from nettle fiber. Nettle makes fiber that is stronger than linen, and once washed a few times, becomes very soft. As a fuel, any plant matter left over from other processing can be turned into a bio fuel.
Goats will eat fresh nettle seemingly unaffected by their stinging. Cattle have been fed dry nettle to help improve milk production. Chickens also seem to benefit from dried or boiled or mashed nettle to their diet. Feeding dried nettle to your horses helps improve digestion trouble.
Try hanging a bunch of nettle in your kitchen to dry for infusions, you will have the added benefit of deterring flies! You can also make paper from the nettle fibers!
As a food crop, stinging nettle contains high levels of vitamin C, iron, vitamin A, potassium and trace minerals and proteins. After mid June however, some nettle become grainy, having developed a high level of oxalate crystals.
Medicinally an infusion of stinging nettle is very cleansing and so will improve all kinds of skin conditions. Also widely used and associated with a sluggish, body system. Nettle is used to clean out many toxins that accumulated over the winter. Stinging nettle has been used to clean the liver and blood, help relieve gout, arthritis, rheumatism, and kidney stones.
I should also mention that stinging nettle leaves provide you a green dye, and the roots provide you a yellow dye!
From food and medicine, to so much more, stinging nettle is a wonderful plan to have on your property or in your garden.
I hope you will explore more of stinging nettle and bring this wonderful plant, into your life and into your home.
Written by Rich – ATC 7/5/2015.