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Stinging Nettles!

I collected fresh baby nettles without getting stung! You may wonder why anyone would intentionally collect stinging nettles and I thought the same until last summer. My local university extension office had a training session for us volunteers and they introduced a handout for the uses and preservation of Nettle and I was intrigued! This new study was coordinated with our local native tribes who have been collecting nettle for centuries for food and basket weaving and rope. Who knew?!? Apparently native folks to this part of the world have known for a long time and were kind enough to share their wisdom. 

Food uses for nettle are to harvest early in the spring for young shoots and growth. These young growth can be dried for tea, ground into a powder to sprinkle over dishes and add to smoothies. They can also be used as a greens substitute for spinach or kale. Prior to consuming nettle you must blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes or dehydrate as this will remove the tiny hairs on nettle called trichomes which contain chemicals that produce a stinging sensation on the skin that can last for hours or cause blisters. Nettle is a great resource of fiber and improves digestion as well.

Mature nettle is used in basket weaving and rope making. Harvest mature nettle in the fall as the stalks are firm, dryer and pliable for weaving. No need to blanch or dehydrate mature nettle as by this time the trichomes have dried up and no longer contain the stinging chemicals, so that’s a bunch of good news!

Here is the information I learned to collect nettle without getting stung (long pants/shirts and gloves!)

  • How to harvest - cut the nettle at an angle right above the node. The angle cut helps keep water from collecting in the shoot which would waterlog it and kill the plant.

  • When to harvest

  • Early Spring in the morning before the flower blooms for food.

  • Fall for basket and rope making.

  • How much to take AND leave behind - Only take what you need and don’t dig up the plant. Be mindful of the butterflies that lay their eggs on the underside of the leaf and other animals and people who come after you.

  • Blanch for freezing 

It was such a wonderful class and I can’t wait to share these delicious goodies when I have a 


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