PNW Landscape Plant Guide

brought to you by the plant geeks at Calendula Farm

Nettles (Urtica dioica)

Nettle is a long-treasured food and medicine plant in indigenous cultures throughout North America. Nettles show up in early spring and the original stewards of this land have always known that eating Nettles helps to reset the digestive system and get it ready for fresh vegetables and fruits after a winter of eating heavier, dried and preserved foods.

Nettles are no fun to run into when you aren’t expecting them, but when cooked or dried, the sting is neutralized. They make a flavorful tea. In Eastern Europe, Nettle soup is a spring tradition. Nettle pesto is awesome. Our creative friends at Field Bar in Tacoma are currently using it as a steamed green with poached Sable Fish.

Harvest Nettles in spring. Snap off the top two or three layers of leaves. The plant continues to grow and you can harvest several times over a couple of months. Don’t harvest when flower buds appear at the stem tips. Let it continue its life cycle and then you can harvest again in autumn.

Nettles has a mile-long list of nutrition and benefits. Here’s just a few: Anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, alleviates allergy symptoms, moderates menstrual and menopausal effects, works as an organic pesticide, relieves skin irritations, and on and on. Here’s a great article from the NIH about Nettles’ usefulness.