This Fuller Life

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How to Harvest and Dry Stinging Nettle

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As a flashback to warmer days, I want to tell you about my very own stinging nettle plant.

The story starts with a stinging nettle cutting that I got from my friend Anne-Marie. You should check out her blog, Bella Vista Farm. She is an amazing herbalist and homesteader!

I placed my cutting in a cup of water and 3 weeks later it sprouted roots. I planted it in a pile of dirt at the back of my yard and promptly forgot about it, and you will never guess what happened next!

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I didn’t water, I didn’t weed, and despite my neglect, the plant thrived.

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I couldn’t believe how big and bushy it had gotten by the end of the summer last year. I decided to cut it back for the winter and dry it to make nourishing herbal infusions.

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Harvesting stinging nettle can be a little tricky.

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It has a bunch of little hairs on the plant that contain formic acid. It is a skin irritant that causes itching and redness. That is probably the reason why this was the only plant the deer didn’t demolish in my garden last year…

Interestingly, because it is an irritant and increases blood flow to the area, it is used as a topical treatment for arthritis. People will stick their hands into a patch of stinging nettle and it takes away the pain from the arthritis for up to a few days, and the stinging only lasts for 15 to 20 minutes.

But, my goal was to avoid getting stung.

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I used some rubber gloves that worked perfectly for the job, along with the biggest bowl I had and some scissors.

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Wearing gloves and long sleeves kept my arms and hands protected and I didn’t get stung.

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Knowing winter was coming, I cut it to the ground. It will overwinter in the ground and come up again this spring. This is such an amazing plant, I want to fill the whole back of my property with stinging nettle.

It is a perennial, it can grow in the shade, it grows in the face of sheer and utter neglect, it might help to keep the deer out of our yard and it is the one of the most nutritious plants on the planet! It is high in protein and many vitamins and minerals. As a nutritive herb it can help build the blood and remedy anemia and fatigue, it is a gentle lymphatic cleanser, it is a diuretic and enhances the excretion of waste through the kidneys, and many more things.

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Once I had my stinging nettle harvested, I assembled a make-shift drying rack.

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I was gifted an old wooden dryer rack from my Granny-in-Law, and we had screens in the garage from when we purchased the house that never made it into windows. It was the perfect drying set up. I washed the rack and the screens with soapy water first. Then I sprayed on vinegar and let it air dry to sanitize them.

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Then I loaded up the screens with stinging nettle. I couldn’t fit everything on the screens, so I kept my gloves on and bundled the rest with yarn and hung them to the rack with salvaged twist ties and stretched out paper clips. It worked beautifully.

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I also harvested plantain from the yard and rosemary to dry for tea.

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I think it took about 2 weeks for them to dry and we kept the ceiling fan on so there would be continuous air circulation which helps the drying process to go faster.

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You know they are done drying when you crush a leaf and it crumbles between your fingers. If it bends instead of crumbles, there is too much moisture and it needs to dry for longer.

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I gathered it up from the dry rack and processed it by stripping off the leaves.

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The stems went to the compost.

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I got quite a bit of nettle from my one plant. I look forward to getting even more next year. I have been adding it to many of my tea blends, as well as making stronger overnight infusions with it. It tastes amazingly fresh, green and earthy. Homegrown is best :)!

I want to hear from you. Do you grow or dry any of your own herbs? What are your favorite things to grow?

1 Comment

  1. I want to plant it every where too! I have the one patch and it is in full sun – grows pretty well there but I think I will move some to the shade. such a fabulous plant :)

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