Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)
A rejuvenating spring tonic, nettles have been traditionally used for thousands of years to nourish the kidneys, bladder, prostate, skin, hair, nails, circulatory system, colon, adrenals, and other endocrine glands. A true superfood, many of its benefits are due to the plants very high levels of minerals, especially: calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, silica, iodine, silicon, sodium, and sulfur, along with other nutrients like chlorophyll, beta-carotene, iron, and vitamins A, C, D, and B complex. Nettles also have high levels of easily absorbed amino acids and being ten percent protein, they pack quite a punch! Steam, sauté, or gently boil. *Try nettles tea: boil 3/4 cup nettles in 1 cup water, remove from heat, steep for 5 minutes. You can then use your cooked greens to make nettles soup, ravioli, pesto, lasagna, quiche, risotto, in a curry, or creamed. Use them in any recipe calling for spinach or other greens, the only limit to this garden hero is your imagination!
How to Grow Stinging Nettle from Seed
Nettle is a hardy perennial (Zone 5-9) that prefers full sun-shade and moist soil high in organic matter.
For best germination, expose seeds to cool, moist conditions (stratification) for several weeks before sowing in spring. The refrigerator works well for stratification. Or, direct sow seed outdoors in fall and seeds will germinate the following spring. Optimal soil temperature for germination is 65-80°F. Sow seeds 4-6” apart on the soil surface and press lightly to settle. Seeds will germinate in 10-14 days. Thin so that mature plants are 36-42" apart.
Wear thick gloves during harvest and preparation to avoid being exposed to stinging hairs. Cooked or dried leaves will not sting. Harvest above ground parts anytime, except when plant is flowering. Use leaves fresh or dried in dishes, as you would other greens, or in tinctures, ointments, etc.