This beautiful bank holiday last weekend saw a troupe of us going up to Roundhay park in Leeds on a foraging mission. We were so lucky with the weather and the dew had most definitely dried off the nettles by the time we got up to them early afternoon. Foraging in the city is not however, without its downsides, we needed to find a place where pollution from passing traffic would be minimal and most importantly, dogs would be unlikely to have urinated on our prospective crops. Kim had previously spotted a good area in the woodland part of Roundhay park, one of the largest city park in Europe, I’m told. The area proved to be excellent, as there were some really good patches of nettles on some precarious angles, that we could feel fairly sure that no dog would have walked into the middle of to wee!
A stream ran through the bottom of the little combe in which we gathered the nettles (we were wearing protective marigolds of course and attracting strange glances from other park enjoyers), I wondered how clean the stream was but then decided not to worry about what was in it when I remembered what Matthew Wood says about nettles in his excellent book “The Book of Herbal Wisdom”. Nettle likes to grow downstream from any place that is giving off nitrates and uric acid like a septic system. The plant then uses these waste products to construct proteins which when absorbed into the human system combine with uric acid waste products in our systems that need removing. Without the nettle proteins coming in and forming complicated protein building blocks to form some of the most complicated molecules used by the body, the waste products can build up causing health problems and sluggishness. This to me is true human plant human synergy. The nettle lives off our waste products, turns them into something useful, we eat the nettle and together become immortal! OK, slight over exaggeration, but you see what I’m getting at.
Nettle has got to be one of the most useful herbs on the planet. Through its ability to clean out our system whilst simultaneously being incredibly nutritious is has been used through the ages to help conditions such as indigestion especially “windiness”, eczema, allergies, anaemia, thyroid problems, period problems, lack of sex drive, the list goes on and on. Nettle is useful for everybody even if you are really healthy, as it helps to clear any stagnant energy that remains after a winter of inactivity.
After we had stuffed our bags full of nettles we quickly returned home in order to get the nettle preserved as quickly as possible. Nettles lose their vitality after a few hours so we wanted to make sure that we preserved them whilst they still had their sting. Some went into vodka to make tinctures. Some were frozen straight to be defrosted as and when needed. Some were chopped up fine and dried in the airing cupboard to be put into dark coloured jars later on for tea. And finally we made a big pot of nettle soup which we ate with cream and nutmeg. Delicious, and the next day my belly was flat as a pancake, no windiness at all and a feeling of being really healthy.
If you want to pick nettles I recommend you get out there soon before they flower and all their wonderful energy goes into their own reproductive processes!