Organic Emily

Growing and Using Medicinal Herbs: Nettle

Stinging Nettle 1

Growing Nettle

Nettle grows wild throughout the US and Canada in rich moist soil and dappled sunlight.  It loves to live near the mountainous streams and rivers.  I personally don’t grow it because of it’s stinging needle like protrusions found on the undersides of the leaves and stems, containing formic acid, the same acid found in bee and ant stings.  I have little children that I know would get into it and besides it’s so easy to get it up at the family cabin.  If you do decide to grow nettle, be sure to contain it because it is a rapid grower, sending runners everywhere, similar to raspberries.  Notice the narrow jagged leaves in the picture above.  When harvesting be sure to wear gloves and do it at the beginning of summer before the plant sends out blossoms that look like small string like strands.  Dry the leaves in a brown paper bag out of direct sunlight or on the lowest setting of a food dehydrator.

Using Nettle

Nettle has a great history of multiple uses including remedies for anemia, rheumatism, menstrual issues, allergies, skin problems and gout just to name a few.  It can be used as a tea, cooked and eaten or infused in a tincture.  The ancients Romans cultivated Nettle more than any other crop and used it in abundance for food, medicine and clothing.  Many claimed that nettle material was finer than cotton or linen.  They also used the raw leaves to flog arthritic/swollen joints.  The welts and rash left by the fresh nettle leaves was reported to improve circulation and relieve aches and pains.  Although this treatment sounds barbaric, it is still used and can be as effective as drug treatments practiced today.  Personally I have brushed up against some nettle in the mountains and one little touch can be very painful, I can only imagine the relief that must come after the sting is gone…

On a more positive note, nettle has some of the broadest array of vitamins and minerals.  Nettle tea is often used to help alleviate “growing pains” in children.  It has also been known to build energy when used as a tonic/tea on a regular basis.  This herb makes an excellent and nourishing drink/tea used throughout pregnancy.

Creamy Nettle-Potato Soup

Try this nourishing soup the next time you harvest fresh nettle.  It’s especially good for those recovering from an illness.

1 T. olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

3-4 Yukon gold potatoes, chopped into small cubes

2 quarts organic vegetable or chicken broth

several large handfuls of fresh nettle

Grated Parmesan cheese

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Warm the oil in a large dutch oven.  Add the onions and potatoes and saute for about 10 minutes.  Add the broth and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer until the potatoes are soft.  Add the fresh nettle leaves.  Blend in a blender or food processor until almost smooth.  Add cheese, salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!

Emily Saddler

Emily is a Master Gardener, wife of a professional landscape contractor, Mom of 4 cute kids, Yoga instructor and very passionate advocate of organic home-grown food! Emily maintains a blog called “The Organic Suburban Farm Girl” where she shares gardening advice, delicious recipes made with fresh, organic ingredients and her escapades as the keeper of both backyard chickens and honeybees!

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