Springtime Stingers

Sorry, been getting away from immediate realities here lately (haha, says he typing letters into a lit up plastic box). To get us back on solid ground I’ll tell you that I’ve been watching the nettles come back up along my favourite bridleway as I walk past with my bike on the morning commute, and again later in the day going in the opposite direction. A few weeks back I remembered to bring my camera – here are some pics of the little blighters, now much bigger, emerging from under last year’s brittle, dead stems:



My favourite verse from the Tao Te Ching:

Men are born soft and supple;
dead, they are stiff and hard.
Plants are born tender and pliant;
dead, they are brittle and dry.

Thus whoever is stiff and inflexible
is a disciple of death.
Whoever is soft and yielding
is a disciple of life.

The hard and stiff will be broken.
The soft and supple will prevail.

(verse 76, trans. Stephen Mitchell)

How long have you been living in last year’s hollow, dried out stems? Isn’t it time you took your energy out of them and put it into the new growth instead? I’ve made two harvests already so far, taking a glove from my bag for the left hand and a penknife for the right, then holding a nettle top and snicking it off before dropping it into a plastic bag. Mostly I’ve been drinking them in morning infusions – four or five tops get taken out of the fridge, put in the teapot and covered with about 0.5l of just-boiled water, then being left to steep for 5mins or so before drinking. Here’s a bigger pot I made for H and me:


You have not drunk nettle tea until you have drunk fresh nettle tea. It’s a completely different beast from the dried form, which I find always has something of the damp sock about it. You get delicious aromas coming off it, a much brighter colour and an incredibly lively *zing* as it touches the tongue and goes down the back of the throat. I probably needn’t say anything about the astonishing array of beneficial macro- and micro-nutrients which I’m guessing are likewise more potent in the fresh herb. When you’ve drained the pot reach in with your fingers and eat the gloopy mass of nettle that remains. They’re damn tasty and won’t sting you after being submerged in hot water for any length of time.

I also made a harvest of nettle roots from a big weeding job last month which I scrubbed and chopped up to make a tincture with 40% vodka (the strongest I could find in the supermarket):



The original idea was to use it to help lessen some swelling I’ve been getting ‘down there’, most likely from all the cycling I’ve been doing to and from work (around 50 miles per week), as I’d heard that nettle root has proven virtues in the treatment of benign prostate hyperplasia and other prostate issues*. However, after further research and consultation with my GP it now seems more likely that the issue is with the perineum on the exterior, the swelling due to constant contact and pummeling by the bike saddle (ouch!). Changing to a harder saddle with a deep groove down the middle seems to have just about solved the problem by shifting the pressure away from the central areas and out to the sitting bones, although I still get the occasional uncomfortable day. I don’t know if using this tincture as a general ‘tonic’ for that area will help get things back to normal or not, but it can’t hurt to try… At least I’ve not heard of any negative side effects and there appear to be other benefits as well. Otherwise, I know some older gents who suffer from BPH, so I’ll be offering them some when it’s ready in another month or so.

Anyway, I heartily recommend you get acquainted with nettle, the more intimately the better – and what could be more intimate than daily use as food and/or medicine? Here’s another Frank Cook video I’ve linked to before in which he suggests that English people should consider adopting nettle as a ‘national food’:

[0:27] [T]he rest of the world of people who know nettles consider it an amazing healing herb, and it’s only here and other places in Europe that it’s considered a noxious weed. And it’s really important: any noxious weed you have around you is rare somewhere, and that’s really important to remember – and that, instead of thinking of it as a noxious weed, think of it as an incredibly abundant friend who’s trying to remind you of something.


* – here’s a summary of scientific evaluations

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6 Responses to “Springtime Stingers”

  1. Kitchen-Counter-Culture Says:

    Reblogged this on Kitchen Counter Culture.

  2. Kitchen-Counter-Culture Says:

    actually, I cancelled the “reblog” and linked to it here (for tech. reasons): https://kitchencounterculture121.wordpress.com/2015/04/12/frank-cook-nettles-and-a-reblogged-blog/

  3. wildcucumber Says:

    Always so good to see Frank and always good to hear about nettles! We’ve just gone – in 24 hrs – from boots and jackets to bare feet and bare arms and yes, my nettles are showing too 🙂 I love how they’re purple at first. You know, all these years I have never made a tea with them fresh, just a whole lotta soup. I’ll get on that in a week or two, promise.


  4. wildcucumber Says:

    Someone just sent me this, Ian – ferment those nettles!


  5. Ian M Says:

    Thanks KCC, glad to strike a chord!

    Christine, I’m shocked! Definitely get on to that one asap. Incidentally do you know if we’re looking at the same subspecies of nettle either side of the Atlantic? Did it come over with the White Man or was it there already? Thanks for the fermenting link. Still haven’t taken the plunge on that area, shamefully. Might try it with the spring plants though.


  6. wildcucumber Says:

    I think we have a few types of nettles here. The woodsy nettles, the garden variety nettles and the oh-my-look-at-the-size-of-those nettles that seem to grow on old homestead. How’s that for identification 🙂
    In other words, I think we have both old and new world types.

    I can’t believe you’re not fermenting foods yet. You make beer, and it’s way easier than beer. As to fresh nettle tea, yes I hang my head in shame. But I’ve learned to eat them raw, does that redeem me?

    Btw, my garden nettles have taken over the bed they were sharing space in so nicely last year. It’s 8’x8′. Do you think I’ll have enough nettles this year? Mwahaha!

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