Common Name: Stinging Nettle
Latin Name: Urtica diocia
Description: Stinging Nettle is a green plant with finely serrated, heart-shaped leaves. The small, greenish flowers that grow on the Stinging Nettle grow in clusters and droop from its leaves. The nettle can grow up to 7 feet tall and is covered with tiny stinging hairs, which give the plant its name.
Habitat: Nettles prefer cool, moist places that get limited sun exposure. Plants can be found growing in thickets near forest clearings and alongside streams and rivers. The plant can be found across North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa
Food: The whole plant is edible, but it tastes best when young and under 2 feet. The plant can be eaten raw, however this can be uncomfortable as you are likely to get stung by one of its spines. The spines, which are believed to contain formic acid and histamine compounds, will irritate the skin upon contact. Traditionally, nettles have been steamed to avoid the stinging sensation, however, blending the plant destroys its needles and enables consumption in the raw form!
Nutrition: Nettles have been used for hundreds of years to treat arthritis and other joint problems. They have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, lower blood sugar, calm allergies, and relax sore muscles. Nettles are particularly high in iron making them extremely beneficial for people suffering from anemia. Tea made from nettles makes a great hair rinse, promotes hair growth, and eliminates dandruff.
Fun Fact: The same chemical compound produced by the nettle plant, which causes irritation, soothes the skin! If you are stung by stinging nettles applying fresh stinging nettle juice to irritated area will completely neutralize the itch!
Recipe: Stinging Nettle Pesto
½ cup of stinging nettle leaves
½ cup of pine nuts
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup of sun dried tomatoes (optional)
Blend nettles in blender to destroy spines. Add remaining ingredients and blend thoroughly. Add more oil or lemon juice if necessary. Serve like regular pesto on crackers, bread, pasta, etc.