Monday, March 23, 2009

Nettle Time -- Part 1

Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica)are some of the easiest to identify, most common, tastiest and most nutritious wild edibles in the Pacific N.W. And they're starting to pop right now.

In Washougal, Washington on the shores of the Columbia, the nettles I was picking late last week (with the help of Farmer Theo and Ms. Sara) were almost all under 1' tall. That's primo size for eating.

Identifying nettles is pretty easy, especially if you aren't afraid of a little pain. Look for herbs in wet forest ground that look like mint or verbena, and touch it with, say, your arm. If it flares up and stings and makes a rash where it touched you, bingo. A less painful way to I.D. them involves talking to experts and/or bringing them into the forest with you.

I always use gloves when I collect them, for obvious reasons. If you want to return to the same collection spot, cut them above a growth node and they'll come back bushy and tender in a few weeks from the same stalk.

There are many ways to use nettles, from cooking and eating as is, drying and using as a supplement or tea, and even making cordage. I'll talk about how we're going to be using them this season in later episodes of this post.

Enjoy eating something that formerly was just something you avoided when hiking,



matt_stansberry said...

I love this. Wish I had time to find some nettles and catch the March Brown hatch...

Bpaul said...

You and me both sister, you and me both :-)