Stinging nettles are one of the harbingers of spring, beginning their growth season along with the dandelions and other early blooming flowers. Read on to find out when they can be harvested and how to use them.
Where to Find Stinging Nettles
Nettles love damp, shady areas, and are most prolific in the American Northwest, in states like Washington and Oregon. They often grow on the edges of fields.
What Causes the Sting?
Nettles are covered with tiny hairs that can break off in your skin. The formic acid in each hair is what sets of the allergic reaction that causes your skin to itch and burn.
When to Harvest Nettles
The best time to harvest nettles is in the spring, before the plants have a chance to flower. After flowering, the texture changes and nettles can cause upset stomachs, acting as a natural laxative.
How to Harvest Nettles
Using a pair of scissors or shears, harvest the top 6-8 inches of each plant. Be careful as you transport your harvest back home for use, as the stinging parts of the plant will remain active until it has been thoroughly cooked or dried.
Nettles may be turned into tea and can be used in place of hops in brewing beer. They are even used in soups and when dried, as an herb. Boiling or sautéing the plants are also popular ways to eat them.
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