Perennial Nettle: the Unsung Superhero

Goodness me, where to start with our dear nettle! Firstly, nettle leaves are nutritive and are used in biodynamic gardening to enrich the soil, and used in medicine to enrich our own inner environment. Nettle leaves are full of life, and minerals like magnesium, iron and calcium and phytochemicals like chlorophyll.

Nettle is an important plant for your garden for several reasons. As well as the myriad of human health benefits derived from it, this plant ensures that your garden soil is rich in magnesium, sulphur, and iron.

Nettles can often be found growing in an area of cultivated soils (or where soil has been disturbed/aerated) and like to grow in soils rich in phosphorus and nitrogen. They have extremely well developed root systems. The roots are able to spread through the soil, and these roots have the potential for sprouting a new plant.

Nettle root systems mine for nutrients in deeper soils and makes them available to plants around them. It is said that nutrients accumulated by nettle plants are particularly beneficial to perennial herbs, stimulating essential oil production and making them more aromatic! It is therefore a fantastic companion plant for herbs.

Nettle contains large amounts of nitrogenous compounds, and have been used by gardeners as compost activators and to make liquid fertilizer. When it is made into a liquid fertilizer, the solution delivers a good supply of magnesium, sulphur and iron.

Stinging nettle is very important in biodynamics and is used as part of the compost preparations (preparations 502 to 507).  The nettle (504) preparation is buried in rich soil for a year.

About a month ago, in collaboration with Aaron from Harvest Farms, we collected loads of perennial nettle from his farm in Mount Tomah to make the 504 preparation. We densely packed the nettle in a terracotta pot, covered it with a tile and buried it upside-down 30cm deep in the Lyttleton orchard.

In about 12 months time, it will be ready to dig out. The composted nettle will then be ready to add to our compost heap. It will aid decomposition of organic matter, stimulate formation of chlorophyll in plants as well as iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium and sulphur activity in the soil. This plant is a true superhero!

It is used in herbal medicine for this reason as a re-mineraliser, a nourishing tonic for the blood and to support strength and tenacity in people that are depleted, convalescing or weakened by illness or stress. These indications for people’s health are mirrored in Nettle’s growth. If growing in bare and compacted earth, its roots draw minerals up from deep below the surface to enrich a depleted patch.

Nettle is used as a tea or tincture and is also a wonderful plant to grow and incorporate into your diet. It is wonderful for your garden too to grow yourself. The leaves can be picked anytime but are most potent in minerals when the plant starts flowering. Unless you’ve got tough hands, collect the leaves with gloves to avoid getting stung. The sting is removed by blanching the leaves, and then can be used in cooking where you would use spinach. You’ll find Nettle and Gorgonzola Tortellini in Lyttleton’s Pantree freezer by Pasta Emilia. It’s delicious. We also have dried nettle leaves you can use for tea.

Cooking the leaves can change the availability of nutrients so making fresh nettle juice is a great way of getting all its available goodness as a health tonic. The juice wont suit some people that are sensitive to the sting. Rigorous juicing gets rid of the sting though some people can still have an uncomfortable reaction so best know your body and decide whether to try it or leave your nettle enjoying to lasagne’s, nettle and ricotta pies, nettle soup or tea.

The root and leaf are used in herbal medicine for many symptoms. Nettle is a circulatory stimulant, it is dry and warming so it assists the movement of nutrients around the body. Nettle is a good tea to drink throughout winter when we are colder and indoors more. Nettle is cleansing and used in conditions where there is an accumulation of fluids or toxins and the need to clear and refresh the body. It’s useful for skin conditions, acting as a cleanser as well as a reminder for the skin of it’s protective and receptive role as the first line of contact with the outside world. It is very helpful for eczema in children, nervous eczema and skin conditions that are itchy and tend to flare. Nettle is also used as a diuretic, used for arthritis and rheumatic conditions aswell as for men’s prostate heath and urinary tract infections.

 

 Perennial nettle,  Urtica dioica

Perennial nettle, Urtica dioica