Nettles, Urtica dioica
DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: This is a slow spreading perennial growing to 2-4 feet tall. Nettles prefer rich soil and plenty of moisture and sunlight to develop robust clumps. Nettles spread by seeds and stolons. This is the plant that stings, so approach with caution. Legend says that if you harvest it directly, with bare hands, it will not sting you, but stings harshly when you brush up to it unknowingly. Sounds unlikely, but have found it true for me. Perhaps because my fingers are so callused from gardening for 4 decades, I can harvest bare handed! I recommend to harvest with pruners or scissors directly into your basket.
The stinging hairs (trichomes) become amenable when put in boiling water and mostly peaceful when dried.
PART USED: young shoots as a steamed or boiled potherb or “green”, root used to maintain healthy prostate, seeds contain essential fatty acids and are used as an adaptogen, stem is a classic fiber source, hence the name “nettle”, as twisting into fibers.
FUNCTION: Nettles have a medicine kit full of uses. Vitamin and mineral powerhouses, they make a delicious power packed infusion. Taken in the spring pollen time, they have been reported to offer some relief. You can “urticate” your congested joints and muscles by brushing fresh nettles on them to promote blood flow to the area. The spring shoots are a delicious spinach substitute, with a bit more fibrous texture. Our family loves them this way!