Other names: Urtica dioica
Source: Northern Europe, Asia, North America
General Information: This is a perennial herb with a tough, creeping rhizome and erect, square leafy stems. All parts of the plant bristle with stinging hairs, the tips of which break off when touched and then release formic acid which can cause blistering and other skin reactions.
The generic name of this plant Urtica comes from the Latin word uro which means ‘I Burn’. The common name, Nettle, comes from the Anglo-saxon word netele which translates to needle. Traditionally used medicinally, Nettle can be cooked like spinach or added to pastas and risottos; the barbs of the leaf are diminished by cooking.
Nettle has found a resurgence of popularity amongst foragers and traditional cooks alike and is available in the wild from July through September. In warmer climes, it is available year around.
Nutritional: Many of the benefits are due to the plant's very high levels of minerals, especially, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, silica, iodine, silicon, sodium, and sulfur. They also provide chlorophyll and tannin, and they're a good source of vitamin C, beta-carotene, and B complex vitamins. Nettles also have high levels of easily absorbable amino acids. They're ten percent protein, more than any other vegetable.
Applications: Clean and chop nettles wearing rubber gloves. Once they have been cooked, the stingers are deactivated, and the plant becomes wonderfully edible.
Nettle leaves are good simmered in soups 5-10 minutes. Nettle is also a Tuscan classic addition to risotto in the spring.
Nettle tea compress or finely powdered dried nettles are also good for wounds, cuts, stings, and burns.
German researchers are using nettle root extracts for prostate cancer, and Russian scientists are experimenting with nettle leaf tincture for hepatitis and gall bladder inflammation.