Nettles are one of spring’s most enticing traditional herbs, and are also a delicious wild food. Nettles are an annual plant found in wooded areas and forests, in natural grasslands, along fertile fields and riverbanks, and along shaded trails. Nettles can be thought of as springtime’s green superfood, packed with minerals and vitamins.
Nettles are a great source for wildcrafting in terms of sustainability since they are a naturally spreading weed. If you have a nettle patch that you visit often or one growing in your garden, frequent harvests will ensure second growths, making it a viable plant all summer long.
When they are young they are full of fresh juicy goodness just waiting to be eaten!
Adding nettles into your wellness routine and diet not only gives you essential nutrients that your body needs but they support healthy tissue states and sinuses. Fresh nettle is always found on an herbalists’ lists when it comes to supporting healthy eyes, nose, lungs, and sinuses. Some favorite ways to use them include a fresh nettle tea, cold infusion if you can or fresh nettle juice!
Cooking with Nettles
Nettles are delicious in many spring recipes — from soups to salads, pizzas, and pastas. They are a great stand-in for greens like chard or spinach in certain recipes—soups, pastas and warm grain dishes, as well as treats like nettle tart or quiche.
– Harvest the top cluster of young nettles (the top 5” or so) as they are the most juicy. They are tender when young and easy to harvest!
– Wear […]
Most herbalists know of the nutritive value of nettles (Urtica species). We harvest them in spring and early summer, cook them in soup, or dry them to make dark, rich overnight infusions that replenish and revitalize. I was first introduced to nettles when I was young, at my grandmother’s house where they grew wild. Since then I’ve found them growing almost everywhere: on the rocky slopesides of Vermont’s Smuggler’s Notch, in the lowlands by the lakeside, all across Europe and North America. But nowhere have I seen nettles like Urtica massaica, the species that grows near water in the highlands of Tanzania
We are working at a local hospital, on the edge of the Serengeti just west of the Rift Valley. This is the land of the Maasai, who herd cattle all day, generally eat meat and some grains (no vegetables), and live in far-flung bomas far from modern healthcare. This is generally fine – but in some cases, such as after protracted childbirth or long-standing illness, members of the community arrive at the hospital with profound anemia. We have routinely seen hemoglobin levels of 4, 5, and 6 – normal being 12 or 13 – and while some are lucky enough to receive blood transfusions, this is the exception, rather than the rule. Their tongues are quite pale but we also see characteristic dark purple splotching in the more severe cases – often along the edges. In these situations, we really see that stinging nettles aren’t just a nutritive tonic: they deserve to be considered alongside all the “superfoods” […]
As herbalists, one of the first things we think of when we feel the season shift is that in a matter of weeks, there will be an abundance of medicine to harvest, eat, and preserve. Plants we don’t grow in our gardens can be wildcrafted in surrounding areas and we enjoy what the earth provides. As herbalists, we know the plants intimately, and we deepen our relationship with them each year. Knowing how to use wild medicine, and where to find food, also bears a significant commitment to being an herbal steward and to be radical in our approach to preserving the wild plants around us.
While the growth of the herbal and wellness industry is exciting and ever on the rise, what has come with it is a mass production of herbs and a severe increase in over-harvesting.
Wild foods have become hip and are sought out in trendy restaurants that will pay a good price for a few pounds of local wild edibles. What isn’t always apparent is that this has been resulting in the over-harvesting of popular favorites—like Wild Ramps, Fiddleheads, Ginseng and Goldenseal.
Instead of thinking with money on the mind, we need to retrain ourselves to think about what happens to these populations of edibles that are quickly becoming at risk. Is it worth it?
It is important to think about this delicate relationship as we approach the peak seasons of abundance. If we are harvesting our food and medicine, we then become accountable for the wild gardens, their health, and their upkeep.
At Urban Moonshine, we make conscious decisions to […]
Gardening season is upon us in northern New England. After another weird winter characterized by a series of freezes and thaws, and then a late winter rally of cold and snow in March, spring seems like it is finally here to stay. When considering perennials to enrich our landscape, the array of species at our fingertips is staggering. A trip to the local nursery will expose us to an impressive array of glossy-leaved, long flowering, insect-resistant plants from all over the world. Some of the most popular perennials are genetic anomalies, having double flowers, or leaves and/or flowers that are a different color than the original plant. In the case of double flowers, the pistils and stamen, the nectar and pollen producing parts, are replaced with showy petals. This renders the plant useless to pollinators like bees and butterflies. Right now your local nursery may be selling a sterile double-flowered bloodroot, a sumac with purple leaves, or an Echinacea with lime-colored flower petals. These are indeed flashy, but from an ecological standpoint, most of these plants are dead weight in the garden, as they contribute very little to the ecosystem.
Bumblebees and butterflies love Liatris pynostachya (Prairie Blazing Star)!
Despite all the eye candy available to us, many gardeners are starting to think more broadly when we plan our gardens and landscapes, beyond just aesthetics. Alongside our personal needs for food, medicine and beauty, the plants we grow can also serve the creatures that share this earth with us. The plants can provide food and shelter for pollinators, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds! Essentially our built […]