So why isn’t everyone growing stinging nettles? Maybe because they deliver an unpleasant sting when they come into contact with your skin. These plants have tiny little hairs on them that contain formic acid. This is the same chemical those pesky red fire ants that roam around the sands of the southeastern United States contain.
Nettles do not sting when they are cooked, steeped in teas, or dried. Nettles are rich in iron, calcium, Vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, chromium, flavonoids, histamine, and serotonin. These plants help to alleviate the symptoms of seasonal allergies. Since I have been drinking nettle tea for the past 9 years, I have been able to eliminate the need for allergy medication. The only side effect of consuming nettles is a mild diuretic effect, so don’t drink right before bed.
You can make nettle tea, nettle spinach pie, or saute them in a little olive oil and tamari sauce. This plant is not only beautiful in the garden, but the birds love to eat the seeds they produce in the late spring.
If you decide to harvest stinging nettles, you must do so before they begin to flower, which is typically in late spring. Once the plants flower, their chemistry changes and they form calcium concretions, which can be harmful to the urinary tract. Don’t forget to take a pair of gloves.