Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica)

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Excellent delicious perennial vegetable that can steamed as a green or used in any way you would other greens such as Swiss chard or kale. Harvest the young shoots when 6 to 12 inches tall in the early spring ( late February or early March here) for a health boosting treat during the time of the year when you really need it. Also harvested during flowering for drying for medicinal use in tinctures, teas and other uses. Nettles can be grown in the shade under deciduous fruit, nut or shade trees, or out in the sun. On the west coast they naturally grow as an understory plant in alder groves. Long lived spreading yellow rhizomes send up shoots in the spring that grow up to 6 feet tall by the end of summer. Can be cut back and harvested several times during the season. They have hairs on their stems that inject a stinging juice into the skin, so it is important to plant where you will not brush up against them on a regular basis. Can be harvested with gloves, or held gently by the tips while cutting stem with a knife. The stinging quality dissapears when cooked or dried. Incredibly nutricious and high in protein, vitamins and minerals, they are long known for their blood building and tonic effects on the body. Also make a great hay for goats and other livestock. Seeds can also be harvested and the mature stem fibers were used by native Americans in making twine and ropes for nets and many other uses.