They look like weeds, but stinging nettles are a very useful – and tasty – wild herb. They have medicinal value. too. Here’s how to identify and use them.
by Karla Moore
Spring is finally here in the Midwest. My husband is out getting the garden ready for planting. I managed to make supper with the first thing out of the garden….stinging nettles!
Nettles are a perennial plant that grows in abundance in this part of the country. It contains high amounts of Vitamin C and works as a diuretic. The more I read about this plant, the more I like it!
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center: “Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica and the closely related Urtica urens) has a long medicinal history. In medieval Europe, it was used as a diuretic (to rid the body of excess water) and to treat joint pain.
“Stinging nettle has been used for hundreds of years to treat painful muscles and joints, eczema, arthritis, gout, and anemia. Today, many people use it to treat urinary problems during the early stages of an enlarged prostate (called benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH).
“It is also used for urinary tract infections, hay fever (allergic rhinitis), or in compresses or creams for treating joint pain, sprains and strains, tendonitis, and insect bites.” – UMMC
Stinging nettle is the name given to common nettle, garden nettle, and hybrids of these plants, according to UMMC. Originally from the colder regions of northern Europe and Asia, this herbaceous shrub grows all over the world today. Stinging nettle grows well in nitrogen-rich soil, blooms between June and September, and usually reaches 2 to 4 feet high.
Stems are upright and rigid. Leaves are heart shaped, finely toothed, and tapered at the ends, and flowers are yellow or pink. The entire plant is covered with tiny stiff hairs, mostly on the underside of the leaves and stem, that release stinging chemicals when touched.
The problem is that the “stinging” part isn’t just a name. These plants do bite if you handle them with bare hands. They have little hairs on the stems that sting. So, today, I grabbed a pair of rubber gloves and an empty ice cream bucket to gather some for supper.
While I was out in the garden I grabbed some walking onions too.
The nettles were at a perfect size for picking, less that a foot tall. I picked an ice cream bucket full, pulled off all the leaves then washed them thoroughly in cold water. Then I spun them out in my salad spinner.
In my cast iron chicken fryer, I sauteed some green onions, diced carrots with olive oil and a little bit of diced bacon. Then all this was cooked until the onion is done.
Add the nettles and stir until they are wilted. Don’t use bare hands when handling the nettles – those suckers will sting you!
Oh, I tossed some toasted, slivered almonds on top too. You could just eat these as a side dish or fold into pasta. I didn’t realize they wilted down that far or I would have picked more….
Contact Karla Moore on Facebook at Karla’s homesteader arts
Karla Moore is a professional soaper, and ownes and operates “Heart of Iowa” soapworks near Gilbert, Iowa for. She started making soaps for her own personal use, and started her business in April, 2000.
Her experimentation, and earlier training as a cosmetologist, subsequently lead to a special line of soaps designed for people with allergies or similar skin conditions.
Karla specializes in soaps for people with allergies and also teaches soapmaking classes for the Iowa State University Extension Service. She enjoys visiting with both beginner and experienced soapers.