And, so it was that earlier this week our family set out into the woods with our rubber gloves, pruning shears and harvest baskets. Thankfully, I am not alone in my nettle passion. If I were, it would probably be a challenge to get my loves on board for risking a good sting or two in the pursuit of this delectable wild bounty.
Steve was quite skilled and was the only one of us who managed to harvest without getting a single sting. Cedar, Sequoia and I all fell prey to the painful defenses of this amazing plant.
For those of you who may not know about stinging nettles or have not encountered them, the stalks and leaves are lined with tiny little hairs, that when touched and broken act like a little hypodermic needle and inject a mixture of compounds that sting and irritate the skin. However, once steamed or dried, the nettles no longer sting and can be eaten and enjoyed.
I find nettles to be the most amazing plant. They are absolutely delicious (as I repeatedly gush), plus they are also useful in other ways. They are a dynamic accumulator, which means that they use their roots to dig deep in the soil and gather minerals, macro and micronutrients and then transfer those nutrients to their leaves. Nettles are particularly good at harvesting nitrogen, calcium, sulfur, magnesium, iron and sodium. That is much of why they are so nutritious to us humans, but also why they are so good for the soil. Nettles can be added to your compost for enhancement with those deeply mined goodies. Plus, the stalks an be used as a fiber plant! Nettles contain a bast fiber much like flax and hemp, so can be rendered and woven. I had the wonderful opportunity several years ago to learn to soften and spin nettle fiber into cord. It was awesome. Aren't these plants incredible?! I'm seriously in love with this particular flora friend.
Our harvest day concluded with homemade pizzas topped with loads of nettles and shallots. It was delicious to say the least! Quite the springtime feast in honor of one of my favorite plants. There is a plan in place to make a large batch of nettle raviolis to put in the freezer to keep the nettle enjoyment going all year. (We just need to find the time to make them! It's quite the process...) And loads are going into the dehydrator to have a large stash on hand for tea as well. My favorite nettle tea blend can be found here. But, I also drink just plain nettle tea pretty much every day. It's so good.
Our favorite harvesting spot happens to also be along one of our favorite local trails. So, in addition to the joy of the seasonal gathering, we get to revel in the beauty of a walk in woods along a gorgeous inlet of south Puget Sound. And settle into the sounds, smells and wonder of being in the forest together with a simple agenda.
Even the smallest among us seemed to have a blast attempting to throw himself out of the carrier on my back!
I hope that wherever you are, you are enjoying your favorite springtime treats this weekend!