My First Time Harvesting Stinging Nettles

Late last summer Rosie, a fellow herbalist and beloved family member, pointed out that we have a fairly large patch of stinging nettles growing in our yard!  The patch is in an area where Jamie sometimes grazes his annual flock of new chicks.  When she pointed it out, the patch was already overgrown and gone by.  So this spring I kept an eye on it and watched for the right time. I waited till the nettle plants reached approximately 18″ tall before clipping the tops. Black beetles the size of sesame seeds ate holes in the leaves by then, but I felt they were still worth harvesting. On harvest day I wore gloves, long pants and long sleeves and had no problems. Jamie didn’t wear gloves and did get stung; the discomfort lasted for several hours.  Apparently, experienced herbalists can carefully pick the leaves barehanded without incident!  What’s also interesting, and counterintuitive, is that the antihistamine in the nettle stingers has been found to relieve joint pain.

“Stinging nettles have developed stinging cells as an adaptation to deter herbivores from eating them. The plants contain long, thin, hollow hairs that cover the majority of the stem and the underside of the leaves. Nettle stings contain acid (formic acid) but they also contain histamine and other chemicals.” [1]

The good news is, the nettle stingers dry up soon after picking or cooking.

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You can see where the sesame shaped beetles nibbled the leaves.

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Nettle leaf makes an excellent nutritious and medicinal tea. Since it’s a prolific herb that grows in the wild, maybe you can also find a patch to harvest!

I clipped the top of each plant with scissors and placed the branches in a paper grocery bag; there was enough to fill the bag halfway. I’ll rotate the branches daily, and let the leaves thoroughly dry right in the bag.  You can also hang the branches upside down to dry.  Once dry, I’ll store the nettle leaves in glass canning jars and use 1-2 teas of dried nettle per cup of tea.

Anthony William, Medical Medium, wrote one of my favorite descriptions of the medicinal properties of nettle leaf. It’s a very important, wildly abundant, medicinal herb not to be overlooked!

In the wise words of renowned herbalist Rosemary Gladstar, “Nettles usefulness can be traced to antiquity and its popularity as a medicine and a food has hardly waned. True, if you’ve never been introduced to the virtues of herbs, you’ve probably never even heard of the positive side of nettle. As a matter of fact, the very word probably conjures up visions of painful welts and dermatitis. But nettle is beloved in the herbal community and is one of my personal favorites.”

I ended up with 4 qts of dried nettle leaves for making tea

I ended up with 4 quarts of dried nettle leaves!

UPDATE: I ended up harvesting twice this year, in the spring and fall. After drying the nettle leaves I removed the stems and stored in glass jars.

UPDATE: I ended up harvesting twice this year, spring and fall. After drying the nettle leaves I removed the stems before storing in glass jars.