We love growing nettles as an edible plant in our garden and want to devote this week’s tip to its many interesting properties. Most people are familiar with the sting that accompanies touching it with bare skin, but there are many other uses for stinging nettle you may not be aware of.

Stinging nettles usually grow in the same spot from year to year. They thrive in rich soil, including moist woodlands,
disturbed areas, partially shaded trails, and near riverbeds. If you find them in your garden, it is a good indication you have rich soil for your vegetables.

Nettles have a long history as a herbal medicine, treating things like arthritis (with people purposely stinging themselves with the leaves), for kidney and urinary tract disorders, and in shampoo to control dandruff and improve shine.

If you’re not part of the arthritis-group that purposely sting themselves, there are a few remedies to alleviate the pain of being stung. These include rubbing fresh aloe vera gel on the affected area, rubbing a paste of baking soda and water, using adhesive tape to remove the stinging hairs from the skin, and using a thin layer of mud from a nearby stream to soothe and cool off the skin.

As a vegetable, nettles are delicious when cooked (they won’t sting you once they are cooked or dried). Young leaves are preferable and can be used in soups and even nettle tea and nettle beer. Some gardeners even use excess stems as a natural mulch in the garden, especially if there are large patches nearby that need to be cleared.

Cover Image by Megan Hansen, used under its Creative Commons license.

[Got a Tip?] If you have a tip to share with your fellow urban farmers, let us know at tips@youngurbanfarmers.comWant More Tips? Browse our Tips Archive for more.