Spring is Here! Fresh with green sprouts, clear days, and a brisk wind that moves us into action after the slowness of winter. Just last week marked the vernal equinox, like the fall equinox, a day when we are exactly in balance. 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night. And with this the turning from Winter into Spring, from stillness to motion, from seed to sprout……
What was deep and still in the ground all winter now pushes its way up through the soil and sprouts green and emerging with life, and so the never ending cycle emerges once more. What do you see blooming, sprouting, growing? Although the first day of spring was just officially announced, new growth has been happening for a while now and the land is alive with plants, flowers, and herbs! One herb in particular comes alive this time of year and has so much to offer… Stinging Nettles.
You have probably either heard of this notorious plant or had a run in with her but either way she is an herb not to forgot, and for good reasons! Besides the blaring fact that Stinging Nettle can cause much discomfort it also has another side to it, one that I have found impactful, powerful, and soothing. This wonderful herb has many medicinal properties and is rich in nutrition! She is like a Queen in springtime offering so much bounty, beauty, and reigning over shaded areas near creeks. Spring is the time to head out onto the sweet land to harvest this abundant and worthy herb.
Why go harvest nettle? Through out the ages Nettle (urtica dioica) has been revered for its many medicinal and nutritional uses that keeps devoted wildcrafters coming back every spring. Its rich green leaves are FULL of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, supplying a high amount of plant based proteins. Nettle is a rich green tonic from the Earth full of zinging, energizing, toning, and healing qualities. While many of us rush to make coffee in the morning so we an get a jolt of energy to face the day ahead, Nettle has more rejuvenating and energizing properties that with regular use tone the adrenals and kidneys thus giving us MORE REAL energy! I often feel that with the modern world we live in Nettles are essential super food that feed our deepest organs, that provide wholesome restorative energy, and connect us like lifelines to the nourishment of Mother Earth. Susan Weed writes of Nettle in Healing Wise,”I transform the very elements into green milk for you, green milk alive with chlorophyll, calcium,iron,trace minerals, proteins, vitamins, and my own zest and love for life. I am, the milk of your mother, the earth”.
This rich green plant heals and tones the liver, spleen, and stomach, soothes the mucus membranes in the intestines, and reaches deep into the kidneys and adrenals restoring our energy supply. In Women Nettle acts to tone and nourish the reproductive system. Nettle Tea or fresh cooked nettles provide iron to the womb, clean the blood, prevent cramps, and calm stress/PMS. Nettle is a safe plant to use everyday as it energizes, tones and heals over time!
That’s all internal, what about external? Yes, even the stings are medicine! Referred to as Urtication, the intentional braising of oneself with fresh nettles, it is a practice that offers its own healing therapy. The release of histamines, formic acid, and acetylcholine from the small hallow hairs on the leaves triggers the body’s circulation, nerves/meridians, muscle fibers, lymphatic flow, and cellular metabolism. Susan Weed states it brings,” dormant energies into action”. This method of therapy aids in arthritis, muscle tightness, congestion, paralysis, palsy, cold feet, gout, and rheumatism.
Now that you have read the wonderful qualities of Nettles are you thinking of using this great herb? Because whats more is that they are abundant and waiting to be harvested! Waiting to be ingested, to work their magic in our human bodies. So.. how do you harvest nettles?
Many people prefer to use gloves when harvesting nettles, while a rare few choose to go bare handed and receive the effects of the sting. I have done both and find each method to serve in different ways. Recently I have preferred gloves as I often go to collect a lot and want to be more efficient with my hands. For this method you will need: Hardy Gloves ( thick leather is good), scissors/garden clippers, and a paper bag.
Nettles usually grow in shaded areas near water, my favorite spots to pick them are along creeks, often under Alder trees. They tend to grow in large numbers and spread out along these shady zones. You do not want to harvest them once they have gone to flower or seed, then all the nutrients have moved from the leaves into the flowers and seeds. We want them when the life energy is still concentrated in their dark yummy green leaves…..
When I harvest herbs in general I say a prayer of thanks and imagine all the good uses the plant will be put too. When I feel complete and connected in a good way I begin harvesting. I like to clip the top section on the Nettle where the leaves are freshest. I clip and clip and clip then put them in the bag…simple! Its a sweet thing to be outside surrounded by green, singing spring birds, and harvesting good food to bring home.
Now that you have a bag full of spring green nettles what do you do with them? Steam the greens and toss with a little olive oil, lemon, and salt. Dry the herbs and save for tea. Cook into omelets, casseroles, stir fries….. ! And if you are a pesto lover then make nettle pesto. I look forward to every spring when I can make nettle pesto!
Here are the basic ingredients of Nettle Pesto ( I am not providing a recipe because the way I learned was by experimenting) … We all prefer things differently. I like my pesto with more lemon, others more garlic, ect. So I am giving the ingredients and its yours to run with….It also depends on how much you wish to make. I make big batches and use lots of nettles, olive oil, ect. You can either use a food processor, blender, or mortar and pestle.
Nettle Pesto Ingredients:
~ Fresh Stinging Nettle Leaves
~ Olive Oil
~ Pine nuts ( or any nut )
~ Lemon Juice
~ Parmesan Cheese
~ Salt and a little pepper
Blend to your preferred taste and texture…! ( you can also look up recipes online if you want more structure)
So get out there and jump into Spring! I hope to hear stories of converted Nettle lovers!