Stinging Nettle - Like A Beast with a Heart of Gold
Leaves are heart-shaped, finely toothed, and tapered at the ends, with yellow or pink flowers. Stems reach 1 - 2' in height. The entire plant is covered with tiny stiff hairs, mostly on the underside of the leaves and stem, that release stinging chemicals when touched.
Young leaves and shoots, are rich in vitamins and minerals, are cooked as greens with a flavor similar to spinach mixed with cucumber. Also brewed for beer or made into a tea.
The plant is diuretic, digestive, and astringent, stimulates circulation, and clears uric acid, relieving arthritis, gout and eczema.
Historically it was an anti-asthmatic and was used in bronchial and asthmatic ailments, as well as consumption. The seeds were recommended as antidotes to venomous bites and stings. A novel use of the plant was a counter-irritant in rheumatism. The afflicted person was "whipped" on the rheumatic joint with whole plants. The idea was that the pain of nettle stings would make the sufferer forget the pain of the rheumatism.
Heating or drying removes the leaves sting.
It spreads by rhizomes once established, so plant in a confined area to prevent spreading.
"You've listed a number of uses for stinging nettles but seem to have left off the best usage of all: nettles make excellent soup! I pick a few good bagfuls of the new growth in spring, my wife blanches and freezes them and they keep us in nettle soup right through the following winter. Easy to make too."
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