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Herb ID: Stinging Nettle Edition

Spring has officially sprung my friends! There are beautifully colored flowers blooming and fresh green leaves bursting out of their buds everywhere you look! It’s really uplifting to see all the array of colors after a long gray winter, to smell the lush floral scents on the warm breeze and to hear the birds rejoicing amongst the bounty. It’s truly a sensory experience and within it endless opportunities to be present; to feel the energy bursting forth. Whenever you get a moment to get outside, push your senses to explore the newly awakened Earth around you!

One plant that was a joy for me to spot recently pushing up through the rich soil was Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica). I always have a large patch growing on the edge of our property. Are you familiar with this little wonder? Did you know they are edible and have many benefits?

They are gaining height rapidly this month and can reach heights of up to eight feet! Aptly named, they will give you a burning sting if you happen to touch the hairs located on the stem and underside of the leaves. Don’t let that deter you from studying this wonderful plant! There are many ways to safely harvest them, most notably with thick gloves (the needles can pierce through cotton gloves so make sure you are prepared).

There really isn’t a way to mistake this plant. Their long pointy leaves can reach 2-4 inches long and the needles or white hairs as they appear are very noticeable. As they mature they grow tiny fuzzy white flowers which are also edible. When they are young they may resemble Garlic Mustard which can grow within the patches. Below are the pictures side by side, Stinging Nettle on the left and Garlic Mustard on the right so you can see the difference in the shape of the leaves.

Garlic Mustard is also edible and is an invasive non-native plant so you can harvest as much as you’d like! (Best practice is to pull them up by the roots before the white flowers bloom to avoid mass seed dispersal as they will take over any area they can!)

Take some time this season to get familiar with the plants around your area or check out a local park to see if you can spot some Stinging Nettle. The simplest way to enjoy an edible is using it in loose leaf tea and many plants like nettle have many anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antibacterial properties! It’s not recommended to eat nettle raw due to the hairs that could cause irritation. The best ways to prepare them is to dry them out for tea or to blanch them in boiling water and rinse them afterwards to use in soup and stews, the taste is similar to spinach. The fresh newest growth of the leaves is the best part to harvest and to get a good dose of vitamin C!

Our theme for the spring Weeds + Whimsy Herbal CSA box is Stinging Nettles and Cedar. Click the link below to learn more about how to get the box and get access to the forum where we’ll list Laura’s favorite Stinging Nettle recipes!

Have you eaten this delicious plant? Share below your favorite way to prepare them!

Note: Harvesting plants on private property is prohibited unless you are given permission. When foraging it’s important to think about sustainability. Is there enough of the plants in the area that you can harvest what you need and still leave more than you take? If plants cannot reproduce the population will die.

It's also a good practice to give thanks to the plants that you are harvesting!

Happy foraging!


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