Stinging Nettle is just coming up here at our farm. Its a bit later than usual this year. When it is about six inche
s tall, it looks to me like a purple-green dragon emerging from its cave of hibernation. I am thankful for the return of nettle to our Whidbey Island landscape.
This plant is the reason I am an herbalist. She is my most patient teacher. Her gentle nourishment sustains me and her fierce sting awakens me.
You can harvest nettle when it is just emerging. You can trim its top and cook into soups and stews. You can also steam these new green tops a bit and then cook them into quiche, polenta and lasagne. And, most significantly, you can harvest the nettle when it is 1-2 feet high, bundle it and hang it to dry.
We have been listening, asking, harvesting, drying
and utilizing stinging nettle nourishing herbal infusion for over 20 years now. It mineral rich nourishment is unlike any other. Nettle is the herb of change, a mind-altering plant and the most nourishing of all the plants.
We harvest nettle before it flowers in the spring. It will return again in the fall and you can again harvest it as long as it is not yet flowering.
Here is the way to harvest nettle. Though simple in its explanation, the experience itself will change you.
Find a nettle patch and claim it. What I mean by this is to spend time there breathing with the nettle and ask the nettle if you can harvest. Wait for a
“Yes”. If the land is not owned by you, I highly recommend you ask permission of the humans before you pick.
For harvesting, you will need…
- Cloth or paper bags
- Gloves, leather is best, garden gloves are okay.
- A pair of sharp garden shears.
- Heavy, rugged, long pants, and long sleeve shirt.
When we harvest, we cut the nettle about six inches above the ground. The nettle you pick will grow again. We pick six to eight stems and place them all the same way in the
bag. This helps later when you are gathering it up to hang from the ceiling.
Ask permission of the nettle before harvesting. Take time to notice it, how it grows, the needles and allow it to sting you. I consider the first nettle sting of spring an initiation. A few years back, one of my apprentices harvested th
e whole day bare-handed. I would say that she was transformed by that experience.
Once you have your nettle harvest complete, return to the place where you will hang the nettle. We lay out sheet and empty the nettle out on the sheets, bag by bag.
I am gentle with the nettle when I do this. I consider the nettle one of my greatest teachers and so every act in which I participate with nettle, I am respectful of this relationship.
We then gather the nettle up in bunches of 6-8 and use rubber bands or those long vegetable twist ties, to bind them together. We have clothes lines running along our long ceiling beam. We tie the nettle up from this and let it hang. This is away from direct sunlight and receives the rising heat of the wood stove.
If it is end of March when we hang the nettle,
then we take it down from the ceiling in May.
It is dry for the most part. We undo the rubber
bands and twist ties and place the nettle into
paper bags again. Nettle stored like this will keep
fresh and vibrant for a long, long time. This is usually enough to last us for a year until next years harvest.
The first nourishing herbal infusion from our yearly nettle harvest is celebrated.
Stinging Nettle ~ Nourishing Herbal Infusion
This is a very strong tea that sits for a long time. The traditional recipe is one ounce of dry nettle per quart of boiling water. Let this sit for 4-12 hours, over night is good.
Strain it and drink, hot or cold.
This makes a great base for soup and is a lovely hair rinse. If you do not have a scale, one ounce of nettle that you harvested and dried yourself loosely fills a quart jar. The first time I drank nettle infusion, the word that best described it for me was ecstacy.
May it be in Beauty.