|Urtica dioica Family Urticaceae
Part used: Leaves (gather before flowering for culinary purposes); flowering aerial part for tea and tinctures; root in spring or autumn; seed in autumn.
Location: Throughout the world
Description: A perennial herb can grow up to 5 foot tall; needs little description; it is dioiceous so there are separate male and female plants. A related annual species – Urtica urens is used similarly
Harvesting time: Leaves for culinary use before flowering as too fibrous once flowers appear; cutting the plants back gives several crops of young tender leaves throughout the year and means that nettles can be used after May (the tradition is to have three good feeds of nettles before the end of May which is when they start flowering). Nettles can also be used to enrich the compost heap or to make a liquid fertilizer. Spent nettles from the fertilizer or from making medicines can also be added to the compost heap as an accelerator. Nettles also provide valuable food for the caterpillars of various native butterflies so it is good to have a few clumps in the garden. Flowering aerial parts for infusions etc; seeds when ripe; roots in spring or autumn. Nettle has traditionally been used to produce linen and twine.
Aerial parts Amines (histamine, choline, acetylecholine, serotonin, and 5-hydroxytryptamine; acids including ascorbic; flavonoids including qercetin; glucoquinone; minerals including calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium; silicic acid
Roots Phenols; plant sterols including stigmast-4-enzone and stigmasterol
Seeds Fatty acids including palmitic, stearic, oleic, linoleic, eicosanoic
Aerial parts anti-haemorrhagic, hypogylcaemic, diuretic, tonic, hepatic, astringent, anti-allergenic, galactogogue
Traditional and current uses:
Aerial parts uterine haemorrhage, nose bleeds, anaemia. Infantile and psychogenic eczema. Asthma, hayfever. Insect bites. Itchy skin. Arthritis. Fluid retention and poor kidney function
Roots reducing prostatic enlargement
Seeds Energy food, tonic for kidneys and thyroid
Preparations and dosages (Adult dose 3 times daily): Dried herb; 2-4 g or by infusion. Liquid Extract 1:1 in 25% alcohol. Tincture 1:5 in 45% alcohol; 2-6 ml.
Dried nettles used as animal fodder make a hay with an equal protein content to Lucerne. Nettle can also be used to produced a liquid fertilizer for plants. When brewed properly this should smell pleasant rather than foetid.
Nettle can also be used to prepare tea and to brew beer. Nettle juice is a wonderfully hearty drink, nourishing and cleansing at the same time. When nettles are juiced, or pulverized to make pesto, the juice antidotes the sting of the hairs so there is no stinging effect. For the braver raw food enthusiast it is possible to carefully pick a nettle leaf, fold it down from the central rib on each side with the inderside enclosed, roll it up, squeeze gently and munch it like that without a sting; can take a little practice and if you don’t quite get it right then make sure you have a plantain leaf to hand to munch straight after to treat buccal stings (plantain tastes a lot nicer than dock leaves and in my experience is a more effective treatment for nettle stings).Nettle seed is a valuable winter energy food. The seeds are picked when plump and green and can either be dried or pickled in vinegar to make ‘poor man’s caviar’, they have a pleasant nutty taste.
Nettles can be used as an alternative to spinach in soups and stir-fries. For a constant supply of nettle leaves (they are really only good to eat before the flowers start to appear) treat nettles as a cut and come again crop.
1-2 chopped onions
2 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
2 diced potatoes
1 litre of nettle leaves
1 vegetable stock cube or a dessertspoon of bouillion powder
A few sprigs of parsley and thyme
Black pepper or ginger to taste
Sauté the onions in the olive oil. Add the potatoes andother ingredients and then add about a litre of water or oat milk. Simmer until the potatoes are cooked then liquidize to produce a rich green soup.
RAW NETTLE PESTO
About a litre of gently packed nettle leaves (or 2/3 nettle and 1/3 golden marjoram)
1-3 cloves garlic
½ cup of ground almond or hazel nuts
s, or use whole cashews or pine nuts
1 dessertspoon balsamic or cider vinegar
125-250 ml olive or hemp seed oil, depending on the texture you like. I tend to gradually drizzle the oil into the mixture and it is processed in the food processor.
Salt to taste
Put all the ingredients except the oil in the food processor. Start the processor running and drizzle in oil until the desired texture is achieved. Pesto can also be made using a pestle and mortar.