Since spring is almost here I thought it might be good to talk a little about all those wild herbs we have here in eastern Washington. We are very lucky to live in an area where there are so many wild plants that can provide much of the nutrition and medicine that we need if for some reason we can’t get to the store.
One of my favorites is the nettle. Well I should say I have something of a love hate relationship with nettles actually. While there is nothing worse than walking through a patch in shorts before you realize what’s there, they are chock full of vitamins, minerals, and medicinal qualities. Nettles have been used as both food and medicine since ancient times.
Nettle tea makes an excellent spring tonic. The leaves and stems contain protein, iron, phosphorus, calcium, beta-carotene, magnesium, and vitamins A, C and B complex. There are many recipes for cooking spring nettles on the Internet and many ways to enjoy this healthy green. One of the easiest ways is to pack a cup about half full with fresh washed nettles, remembering to use gloves to gather them and fill the cup. Then pour boiling water over the herbs to fill the cup. You can also eat them as cooked greens. Just remember that they will sting you when they are fresh but as soon as they are cooked they will not.
Herbalists have been using nettles for a variety of remedies for hundreds of years. It has been used for gout, anemia, arthritis, painful muscles and joints. Now some people have begun using the root for treating enlarged prostate, although you should always talk to your doctor first.
Nettles grow everywhere in northeast WA state and provide free nutrition and medicine for the picking.