Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Not So Nettlesome Nettle

“Yield stinging nettles to mine enemies.” – Richard II III.ii.

Today it will be 105 degrees and I will venture little in the garden. Even in the shade, the humidity makes any outdoor activity akin to a death wish. But still even on the hottest day of the year, the garden delivers.

I am snug inside my air conditioned home, drinking a tall glass of stinging nettle tea over ice. I made it with a dried herb, one cup to one quart hot water (not boiling), and left to sit overnight. It tastes like a glass of fresh goodness, giving first an aroma of a hay-filled barn on a hot day and a vibrant flavor of wholesome greens.

Quick Wiki: Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) is a dioecious herbaceous perennial, 1 to 2 m (3 to 7 ft) tall in the summer and dying down to the ground in winter. It has widely spreading rhizomes and stolons, which are bright yellow as are the roots. The soft green leaves are 3 to 15 cm (1 to 6 in) long and are borne oppositely on an erect wiry green stem. The leaves have a strongly serrated margin, a cordate base and an acuminate tip with a terminal leaf tooth longer than adjacent laterals.

Now, I have often seen this plant in my garden and pulled it out and tossed it as any common weed. But this gardener promises to redeem herself from now on. In my quest this week (I had two weeks off from work to recover from surgery. And while the body mended, the mind was free to range) to learn better solutions for coping with the symptoms of menopause, I've discovered a range of plants that offer solace. Nettle is practically the Wunderkind of garden herbs.

Herbalist Susun S. Weed crowns it with "miraculous" abilities. As a source of calcium, magnesium potassium, silicon, boron, zinc and vitamin D, it is an agent for healing and restoration. Weed says it energizes the endocrine glands (critical to women who have lost the hormonal function of their ovaries); it nourishes the cardiovascular system, normalizes weight, eases and prevents sore joints, relieves constipation, and helps to maintain supple skin and healthy hair.

So on this hot day as the body continues to mend and the mind to wander, I'm thinking of the possibilities. Newly restored, refreshed and energized, I look now into my crystal ball and see multitudes of ideas and opportunities. How is it that a simple green friend had so much to offer and yet, grew in my garden weed-like overlooked and unwanted?  This week, I walked the trail in Sligo Creek Park, the tendrils of unknown plants tickled my legs as I navigated the path, and I felt the magnitude of my botanical ignorance. I want to know more of the secrets of plants. And so a new quest begins.

Gardener of flowers and vegetables seeks herbal wisdom and knowledge of nature's ways. The Putterer


  1. Glad to hear you're mending! I've never had nettle tea, but I love nettle soup. (Although in this weather I'd try chilling it.) Here's the recipe:

  2. Thanks Amanda. I'll have to try that recipe, now that I know what they are. I'll bring some of this herb in, so you can try the tea.