I wrote this article in early spring for our little local paper, The Mountain Telegraph. This morning I woke up craving this green beauty and started the day off with a cup of dried stinging nettle tea. As winter settles in, I find myself daydreaming about my wild wanderings watching new life emerge! Enjoy! And spring is almost right around the corner…right?
Last week I was having the kind of day where nothing appeared to be going right, I was frustrated and needed to get out, to move and visit the forest and the river. Along the way I am always on the look out for new signs of spring, the opening buds of the Cottonwood, the bright lime coloured leaves just starting to reveal themselves, the first bright bursts of yellow of the dandelion flower and then, out of nowhere…I am literally standing in a huge patch of nettles growing along side the river in Gold Bridge. Stinging nettles are by far one of my favourite wild foraged foods and medicines and since moving to the valley I have been on the look out and here she is! It felt like finding an old friend just when I needed one to brighten up my day. Stinging nettles has many nutritional and medicinal uses, from a beautiful tasty green tea or fried up in butter with onions and garlic for a tasty green side packed with vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
When harvesting stinging nettles, most find it much more pleasant to be wearing gloves and to have a bag handy to carry them home in. Stinging nettle leaves will only be palatable for the next month or so, by mid to late May, they will become too large and tough to enjoy. I tend pinch off the top one or two nodes of paired leaves from random plants; they grow back quickly and can be harvested from many times over the next few weeks. The seeds can also be harvested in early autumn and are also an excellent healer. Watch out for the hairs growing from the stems and leaves, they contain skin irritating chemicals that can cause tingling for a few hours or even days. I personally do not mind the sting of nettles and have learned over the years how to handle them to minimize stinging. The sting from nettles has been used on inflamed, arthritic joints and is known to improve circulation and reduce pain after initial contact with the plant. I find the sting energizing, like an electric buzz of energy or a “pins and needles” effect that can last for a few hours. Once the plant is heated or soaked in hot water, the stinging hairs are harmless. It is my belief that this amazing healing and nutritious plant requires these stinging hairs as it would have been diminished by overgrazing by many animals.
One of my favourite ways to enjoy nettles is in a tea. Take some fresh harvested or dried nettle leaves and steep in boiling water for a nourishing tea that aids kidney functions, as a mild laxative, strengthen the adrenals and as a powerful antihistamine. Nettles are perfect for those that suffer from seasonal allergies, try having 2 cups a day for a week and most symptoms will disappear! Regular use of stinging nettles is said to increase overall energy levels, balance hormones, stabilize blood sugars, ease chronic headaches, increase circulation, improve skin and hair and is a wonderful herb for pregnant woman.
Be on the look out! If there is one patch..there must be more of this wonderful plant growing around the valley!