Today it is -26 degrees in International Falls, Minnesota.
The mountain communities in Colorado are covered with snow.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac tells me that it has been snowing in Maine. And it’s going to keep snowing.
Here in San Francisco, we are in the midst of what I call “those weird two weeks in January where it gets warm.” Catchy name, yeah?
Sure, sure, it’s still winter. It will get cold and rainy again. You hereby have permission to return my snark in July when you are sitting by your kiddie pool drinking summer brew and I am pulling on wool socks. But right now? Nanny nanny boo boo, I was hot yesterday and the Japanese Plums are thinking about blooming and the Cherry Tree has the beginning of buds and there are Nettles growing on my back deck. NETTLES! That I didn’t plant! They just volunteered! I was so surprised I didn’t believe it and brought a friend over to confirm that I wasn’t hallucinating. I have repeatedly let them sting me, just to make sure they really hurt and aren’t just prickly.
So what’s the big whoop?
Well, first of all these are nettles, people. NETTLES! The most beneficial (IMHO) plant in the herbal queendom. And they’re in my back yard! In the city! Wheee!
Herbal expert, Wild Man Steve Brill has a fantastic write up on nettles, and this excerpt says much:
Many of the benefits are due to the plant’s very high levels of minerals, especially, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, silica, iodine, silicon, sodium, and sulfur. They also provide chlorophyll and tannin, and they’re a good source of vitamin C, beta-carotene, and B complex vitamins. Nettles also have high levels of easily absorbable amino acids. They’re ten percent protein, more than any other vegetable.
You can eat them like any green leafy, or make an infusion out of the fresh or dried leaves. The brew is a dark, silky, rich broth, and the perfect thing for a spring tonic.
So that’s the second thing. Nettles are harbingers of early spring. It’s not spring yet, but winter is losing her grasp, you can tell. It’s the way the air smells, it’s the different birds arriving on the scene, it’s the way the day stretches out just a little bit longer, and it’s the light that is a little less slanted, a little bit brighter. My nettles overwintered on my back porch, and are ready NOW. I feel the seeds in my psyche reaching toward the light, I feel the blood in my body ready to quicken. It is time to begin preparing for the transition, literally and metaphorically. One of the best ways to do this is with spring tonics, out with the old stagnant accumulation from winter and in with the new rejuvenated digestive, nervous and circulatory system. Traditional herbalists say that the medicine you need the most grows near you, around your home. Nettle…you are my Queen.
The blog world is full of wonderful posts on Nettles, with every bit of information you could ever want. I am not going to reinvent the wheel here today, so if you are interested I encourage you to do a quick Google search.
Here is another great article on Nettles and spring tonics, including a recipe, from a colleague of Wise Woman Susun Weed.
And here is Susun Weed herself, talking about herbal infusions as nourishment, including nettles. The youtube page will direct you to her other videos on nettles and spring tonics.
(Wow, I just love her. It is my dream to study with her someday. “Green Blessings” is her signature, and that is just how I felt when I found my backyard nettles. Blessed indeed.)
Also, here is a great video on how to pick nettles and even eating them raw!
Here is an information packed article by Kiva Rose in praise of volunteer weeds and on the superior benefits of nettle seed.
And here is a very basic guide on identifying nettles.
A note of caution to city foragers…Nettles dig deep for their nutrients, and because of this I would not eat nettles that are growing in potentially contaminated soil or tree wells. Even if you can’t find them fresh right now, or if you are under 3 feet of snow, making an infusion from the dried herb is still a perfectly wonderful way to take in their nutrients. Herb stores, health food stores and online suppliers can hook you up.
Nourish yourself. You deserve it.