HERB SEEDS: Stinging Nettle

Herb Seed Index > Stinging Nettle

Urtica dioica
Family: Urticaceae
Common names: Burn Nettle, Burn Weed and Burn Hazel


Stinging Nettle

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is native to Europe, Africa, Asia and North America. Nettle is a rich food for the caterpillars of numerous butterflies and moths. Nettle plants are usually found in rich soils, disturbed soils and moist wooded areas. Stinging Nettle requires cold stratification for germination, so sow shallowly 3 mm (1/8 in) deep in fall or very early spring. Keep soil moist until seedlings emerge. Once established nettle is a creeping perennial; its runners (rhizomes and stolens) can reach 5ft per year and the plant will self sows readily so be careful to remove flowers and take care in situating the plant. Nettle can also be grown in containers.

Nettle shoots are collected in early spring, before they flower, when they are 10 - 20 cm (4 - 8 in) tall. They are thought to be hard on the urinary tract after flowering. New nettles also come up in the fall, and these can be picked before they're killed by frost. Wear gloves and long sleeves when collecting, cleaning and/or chopping nettles. You can strip the leaves off the stalk by removing them tip to stem. The stinging hairs (trichomes) of nettle act like mini-hypodermic needles, injecting formic acid, serotonin, histamine and other unknown substances into the skin upon contact. Stinging hairs are deactivated by cooking, steeping, soaking or drying. Nettles cook up a lot like spinach. We steam and freeze nettles in mason jars and use them over the winter. Dried nettle also makes an excellent tea.

Nettles are high in calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, silica, iodine, sodium, and sulphur. They are a good source of chlorophyll, vitamins A, C, D, beta-carotene and B complex vitamins. Fresh nettles contain over 10% protein, with dried nettles containing over 25% protein. Nettles contain significant levels of nitrogen and are often used as a compost activator. We make compost tea from collected nettle shoots soaked and stirred daily in 20 litre pails until the nettles have desolved. The results have been stinky, yet promising.

0.1g or ~ 200 seeds


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