Nettles and Chives

Nettles and Chives

Spring has sprung in Madison, and I’ve got the garden goodies to prove it! Well, as you can see from the photo, I’m a Lazy Gardener as well as a Lazy Raw Foodist. I go for the perennials and not so much for the raking of leaves. Weeding? Um, since I actually prefer to eat wild things, I planted those nettles myself last year, having invited them to me energetically. One batch arrived from a potluck/foraging friend of mine via an unknown neighbor who dropped them off during a 2011 Reiki 1 class — just as I had mentioned how Reiki hones your manifestation skills. Touché! The other batch came as a gift from the same potluck friend after their own patch had grown beyond the capacity of nonstop nettle infusions and mortar-and-pestle’d salads. Here they are again, tender little leaves, spiking their way vigilantly through the ground as some of the first signs of spring.

I love nettles! And yes, that’s stinging nettles to you. 😉 These little ladies do leave quite a burn if you ignore them. David and I took a foraging walk in April 2011 with Kathleen Wildwood of Wildwood Institute, and she described it like this: “Nettles like to be noticed.” If you can remember that, you’ll be fine, but if you ignore them, or walk carelessly through their territory, they’ll hurt instead of heal. Fortunately, if you take the time to know nettles, then you’ll find that they contain their own antidote. Softening the leaves and rubbing nettle juice on the stung spots removes an otherwise lasting pain. I find this process so symbolic of life! How many people do you know whose seemingly sharp tongue belies a deeper character of total softie and powerful ally? When you go deeper than the sting, you discover all sorts of gifts and blessings.

Nettles nourish the blood, especially when boiled and allowed to sit in an infusion overnight. In this form, they contain high amounts of iron and other nutrients particularly strengthening for women. They improve skin texture and tone and can enrich just about any kind of cooked dish, if you prefer cooked food. Heat softens the stingers, so you can safely eat them. Last year, we attended a wild foraging dinner, and nettles appeared in everything from pasta to ice cream! I love wild foods because they’re beyond organic. Nothing messes with these superstars, and they help us to become stronger, wilder and free.

Fresh, freeze-dried, in a tea, or juiced, they alleviate allergy symptoms, and Kathleen Wildwood even uses them to help arthritis. On that same wild foraging walk, she shared how one troubled knuckle gets a purposeful early Spring nettle sting (without the juice), and that seems to numb the pain for the rest of the Spring and Summer seasons. She provided me with the herbal maxim, “When in doubt, use nettles,” and I do! I enjoy nettle tea all winter, sometimes plain and sometimes cooled and mixed with a bit of raw cacao powder and vanilla stevia. In the summer, we blend fresh ones in smoothies, and if we ever get out David’s Greenstar juicer instead of always buying fresh juice at the co-op, we might even juice some nettles this year! I like them so much, I gave them raised bed status and planted another patch on the other side of the house:

Backyard Nettles

And what about those chives?! They’re just fresh. We love them. I had been growing some inside the house, but our December and January travels took a toll on them. The batch in the first photo came from a starter plant last year, and it took off in the backyard garden, where only certain things agree to grow. We love them on salads, and I enjoyed reading about their magical and medicinal uses here. Grown outside they take very little care, and again, perennial gardening makes this Lazy Gardener very happy.

I do have plans for the sunny side of our house, armed with knowledge gleaned from last year’s many experiments. We will be building up the soil with compost and worm castings; shifting our garbage and recycling bins to the North side for the summer; and not allowing an accidental pumpkin patch to take over the top sunshine real estate this year. I’ve already started various kales, ruby red chard, oakleaf lettuce and, hopefully, some fairytale blend sweet peas to mix in with greens in the front window boxes. Coming soon to a mini-pot near me: more greens, heirloom tomato plants, a red pepper plant, and as soon as the frost leaves for good, I’ll get some cucumbers and the moon and stars watermelons planted in the ground. We started those melons too late last year, so they never fruited. This year, I’m determined to have not only a wild edibles yard, but also add some more magical elements to our evolving, 3-side of the house garden. My indoor herbs have done well, except for the chives. When it warms up a bit more, I’ll let the parsley, sage, basil, rosemary, thyme and oregano outside — probably right around the time our wild violets start blooming.

Mmmmmmhmmmm! It’s almost super yummy, just picked from the lawn salad time. Cheers!

5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Becky P on March 20, 2012 at 11:13 pm

    Hi Laura 🙂 I ADORE nettles! I had nettle tea during my pregnancies as I was told I was a little anaemic. The midwives were astounded at the rapid and huge response to this amazing food my body had. My iron levels rocketed and this was evidenced by blood tests so the midwives were happy!
    I made a beautiful connection with nettle whilst at my yoga teaching course. Nettle showed me how important she is for flexibility and strength and how this could benefit my yoga practice.
    They’re everywhere and being such a strong plant, once you’ve made a connection with them there is an element of safety in their company 🙂
    Earthy, grounding, strong and protective, one of my all time favourites (along with yarrow, chickweed, hawthorn, dandelion and cleavers – wow!!)
    I really recommend nettle tea.



    • Posted by laurabruno on March 21, 2012 at 1:08 am

      So nice to hear from you! I was just thinking of you yesterday. Much love and thanks for sharing your nettle wisdom.



  2. I like what you say about nettles. We have tea of dried nettles every day, we also use them like spinach.
    Dried nettles, sprinkled over some dishes, give a wonderful note.



  3. Posted by laurabruno on March 24, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    Klaus, I love that post! What a gorgeous supply of nettles you have! Wow, I would be gathering them in mass quantities, too. Thanks so much for sharing the tender story about your father’s nettle story, too. Many blessings!



  4. Reblogged this on Laura Bruno's Blog and commented:

    Blast from the past 2012 post from my first garden in Madison, WI! This post is dedicated to Sophia, who had lots of questions about nettles when I mentioned having transported mine to our new garden and looking forward to making a nettle-basil pesto. Because YUM!

    For anyone interested in growing nettles, I definitely suggest a pot, since they are very difficult to eradicate once planted in the ground. (Sorry, Madison!) They regularly grow on the edge of woodlands near streams, as well as in some gardens. You can harvest with gloves. Crushing the leaves releases the antidote to the sting, and heat also neutralizes the burn. If you carefully toss those yummy leaves (and even stems) into a high speed blender, you can drink nettle smoothies or make a yummy pesto, with or without basil. Herbalists have a saying, “When in doubt, use nettles,” since they reportedly cure so many things. Long infusions made from the dried herbs are particularly fortifying.

    I also find nettles a fabulous addition to vegan curries, since they take on a slightly fishy flavor and scent when cooked. One of our very favorite nettle recipes is a (cooked) asparagus-nettle-lasagna using zucchini as the noodles layered with tomato sauce and the greens, baked, and then topped afterwards with just a dusting or raw goat cheese or raw Parmesan. It’s so mineral rich that it feels like every part of you got a jolt of deep, wild nutrients.



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