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Spring Harvesting - Stinging Nettle

Here on the "Wet Coast" Spring is late to arrive. Usually by early April we are harvesting Stinging Nettle at the same time picking sweet, sticky cottonwood buds. But this year, with the unseasonably cold weather, our Nettles are ready for harvesting but the Cottonwoods are slow to emerge. 

Spring is such an important time of year for so many tribes who consider spring-time the “new year”. With the return of the herring and the springtime spawn - the rich herring eggs are such a vital part of our coastal Indigenous communities. 

My favourite though, is harvesting Stinging Nettle, Devils Club and Cottonwood. Not only is it nice to get outdoors again after long winter, just having our hands touching these powerful medicines is both grounding and rejuvenating. There is a reason our people have used this plant powerhouse for thousands of years!

We also sell our harvested tea blends, as well using Nettle in our Totem Healing House soap bar: Green Tea and Ginger scent.

I generally pick Stinging Nettles with bare hands, like our ancestors, as I actually like the sting! Guess why? Even the sting has health benefits for people who have Fibromyalgia such as myself. The compounds that cause the sting actually help to improve lymph flow, circulation, and its excellent for decreasing inflammation.

We often get asked what stinging nettle was traditionally used for, and that answer is not short! Ancient Indigenous technology is vast. The fibres were used in rope making, for fish nets and so on. But is has also had countless medicinal uses for thousands of years. Not were Nettles used for skin ailments, the perfect tea for new mothers- both for aiding childbirth and stimulating milk production - it also treats joint pain and stiffness, urinary issues. It is especially great for colds, asthma, hay fever and allergies as it is a decongestant, expectorant and anti-histamine. It helps the kidneys to flush waste out of the system and can even dissolve kidney stones.

So how can you ingest this medicine? Dried and used as tea, or cooked fresh. Yes, we’ve included our recipe for nettle pesto! {See below} 

This plant medicine is loaded with nutrients! Like other dark leafy greens, it’s high in vitamins A, B1, B2, C, and K as well as iron (great for anemia) and, surprise - even protein! It also has one of the highest chlorophyll contents of any plant!

Did you know: nettles are a host plant for butterflies?

Tips for Harvesting!

  • Harvest until the hight of the plant reaches around 12”
  • Nipping the top fresh bud will actually stimulate the plants growth, whereas over harvesting of the larger leaves or sections will do the opposite. 
  • We take only the bud and can repeat harvest from the same patch the following week
  • Do not harvest once the plant has begun flowering

Drying and storing: 

If you don’t have a dehydrator, air dry like I do, laid out layers of newspaper for 1-2 days. Then keep in glass jar if storing in a dark cupboard (no exposure to sunlight) or a dark glass jar. My daughter uses her old protein powder containers.

Stinging Nettle Pesto

Ingredients

  • 6 cups raw nettle leaves
  • 2/3 cup pine nuts (can substitute for chopped walnuts)
  • 3-5 cloves garlic (to your taste)
  • 1/3 cup fresh grated Parmesan
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1/3 cup EV olive oil

Instructions:

  • Rinse Nettles while on stems, shake off excess water
  • Remove leaves from stems
  • Heat pan on medium-high, add nettles with 1/4 cup water of water, cook until wilted.
  • Drain nettle leaves in a sieve to remove water. Allow to cool for 5 min before blending 

Process/Blend: garlic, Parmesan, EVOO, cooked nettles, lemon juice, salt and pepper. until well blended. I like to add nuts at the end and pulse so that they retail a bit more chunk rather than being pureed into the mixture (but you can decide the texture you prefer).

Store for 2 to 3 weeks in fridge or in freezer for months.

I hope we've informed and inspired you towards a growing appreciation of this revered plant.

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