Grab even just one stinging nettle leaf and you’ll get not one point but thousands of tiny glass-like needle points filled with histamine and other irritating chemicals. Even a slight encounter with a leaf will embed your skin with needles and will give you a quick lesson in herbaceous plant defenses.
Certainly, stinging nettle is an intense weed to have around, so why don’t we just pull it out?
One reason is that it is one of the very first edible outdoor “greens” we eat in the spring. Mild and flavorful in soups, mixed with eggs, rice, or just straight – we use it like spinach. Young shoots are chock full of iron, vitamins, minerals like calcium and compounds — including silica — required for bone health. Dried leaves make a hearty rejuvenating tea.
So, what about that stinging sensation? Turns out it goes away completely when cooked. The needles dissolve and the histamine evaporates. And you are left with a superior vegetable.
But there’s more. Stinging nettle plays a central role in Biodynamic farming as one of several liquid “preparations” we spray on crops, soil, and compost in tiny amounts to boost fertility and growth. You could say that despite the discomfort it might cause the farmer, having it around is a necessity on our farm and we allow it to grow, controlled in our herb garden.
CSA members need not worry. Despite our love for it, you will never find stinging nettle in your weekly share. But, let us know if you would like to give it a try – we have plenty you can self-pick. Just bring gloves and a good container, and do it soon as the best time to eat the plant is before it flowers.
Speaking of our CSA, we still have a number of open positions. The first pick-up is Thursday June 6. You can learn more about the program by clicking here and can download an application by clicking 04292019 Carlton Farms Vegetable CSA Membership Application 2019. If you haven’t already, please consider joining today.