Friday, May 9, 2014

New Uses for a Weed--Stinging Nettle

I have this nice little bed of stinging nettle next to my driveway that I usually cover up with grass clippings to keep them from going to seed and spreading. Having grown up around stinging nettle, I avoid them as much as possible. Their sting is actually worse than pushki's, it's just that pushki stings tend to turn into blistering burns, whereas nettles just sting, sometimes for hours.

I've been hearing rumblings about how good nettles are for the body (makes sense--fresh, green plant....). Last year a local group was recruiting kids to go out and collect bags full of nettles so their group could make nettle burgers. This winter I went to a talk by a local naturopath and she was singing nettle's praises saying they are one of the best antibiotics on the planet. She suggested making a nettle tincture with 100% brandy or rum, packing the nettles in a canning jar with them, cover with rum, put in a dark cupboard and swish every few days. Apparently it will last forever. But drying nettles for tea works too. 

So my view of nettles has changed significantly. I am down to my last package of spinach in my freezer from last year's garden and I've been contemplating actually buying healthy greens from the store (not always so healthy...). With this crazy warm and dry spring, the plants are flourishing and the nettles are the perfect size for picking right now: less than a foot tall. Last night I put on my fish gloves and took my scissors and a large ziplock baggie out to my bed of nettles and started snipping. A few minutes later my bag was full. I zipped it shut and threw it in the fridge after warning my daughter NOT to eat these raw--I would cook them up for us (she told me not to worry--she wouldn't consider eating nettles!). So tonight for dinner I am going to be audacious and stir-fry up some stinging nettles. Websites I've read say use them just like spinach--even make pesto out of nettles! Apparently the stingers don't sting once they are cooked or dried. Yes, I am a little apprehensive.

I thought this was a very helpful website for learning about harvesting and preparing nettles:

If you decide to try this--good luck! And don't pick nettles along a road as they probably have yucky stuff on them.

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