The Spring of Nettle

A song came through, as I was harvesting, a few year's back.  Nettle loves to be sung to!  The days are lengthening, the air a bit warmer with breezes from the South... Seeing Nettle softens the hard edges of Winter and brings hope for all the new foods emerging.  After a winter of cabbage, potatoes and kale I welcome the fresh new greens of March!

We are now in the peak of the Nettle harvest -mid March to early April- here in the PNW, a time when new emerging plants show their deep purple-green richness alongside stalks that are a foot tall and brightly green and she is coming up everywhere!  I like to sit near a patch of Nettle and breathe in her mineral-rich aroma.  So thick in the air right now is a blend of Nettle, Oso Berry flower and Red Flowering Currant all traveling on these warmer breezes.  All this and that which I cannot see is floating in the air and can conjure up a deeply held cackle of Spring-time laughter that has been waiting... and waiting... to emerge.

 

It is the darkest part of the day right now and I awake,

surely because of the Moon's fullness.  Does not matter

that I cannot see Her,

she pulls me out of my slumber to write.

Song weaves in through a window

opened by

a myriad of dreams

 

When I harvest I lightly 'graze' so that it is barely noticeable that I have been there, leaving more than I harvest to continue to grow. Yesterday I came upon four Does in the meadow, they would run ahead and as I grazed in the Nettle patch, two grazed close by, which added to the sweetness of the morning.

 

My song to honor Nettle:

Thank you for your beauty

Thank you for your Love

Thank you for your beauty

Thank you for your Love

 

Your beauty is above ground

Your beauty is below

Thank you for your medicine

For all you know

 

You teach me to be present

You teach me to be kind

Thank you for your medicine

Your Love-light shines

 

If you look closely at the leaves you'll see the fine hairs that cover the top and bottom of each leaf. These hollow stinging hairs contain a formic acid, (I have also heard it referred to as a histamine) that is injected if brushed up against.

Nettle just likes to be noticed and handled gently...

It is possible to approach the plant and 'pet' a leaf starting at the top of the leaf, and move, gently, down towards the bottom point of the heart shape. If you go the other way you will catch the hollow needle-like hairs on your skin and feel the sting.  The bottom of the leaf is a bit trickier to handle- when I am harvesting I will gently pinch a fold on the upper part of the leaf (with a slight downward pressure as I touch) and once I have a hold I will cut the stalk just above the 3rd or 4th set of leaves from the tip and gently place in my harvest basket.  The first tight clusters of leaf growth invite me to gently harvest a single leaf, fold it just so and roll between my finger tips to extract the juice and place it in my mouth to receive Her through this transition from Old Man Winter into Lady Spring.

I friend and I, while harvesting together mused on our thoughts that Nettle

can sense our presence, through her rhizomes under the soil surface.

Have you ever noticed the gentle wave of her heart-shaped leaves as you sit quietly near her?

Every year I learn something new about Nettle and yesterday was not an exception! I had been harvesting that morning and didn't 'feel' a sting on my fingertips but when I went to rub the tear duck part of my eye... immediately transferred the 'sting' that was on the tips of my fingers right into the corner of my eye.  Oh my, I know not to do that again!  Maybe not as bad as hot pepper juice on the hand, but enough to know to be more careful after I harvest.  My fingers often times tingle hours later and are tingling now as I write :)

Nettle is native to Europe, Asia, northern Africa, and western North America*

The new plants are good to eat until they show signs of flower bud, (approx 2 full Lunar cycles from the time they first emerge).  Once the flower buds show- the energy is going into the flower and pollination, so the plant does not want to be eaten and can be irritating...

After stinging nettle enters its flowering and seed-setting stages, the old leaves develop gritty particles called “cystoliths” that can irritate the urinary tract if eaten or ingested as a tea.*

I will then watch the long process of the flowering and wait until I spot the green seeds and harvest those for winter stores and then harvest the stalks for cordage.

Nettle worked with my hands, after stalks have been set to dry through the winter months. The silky threads of the outer layer, once the inner meat is stripped away soften as I roll them between my palms with a bit of my saliva.  Once this process has worked the fibers enough to soften them I can begin to twist two lengths into cordage.

This year I will try my hand at retting and working the fibers with my drop spindle.  Here is an article on Allan Brown, who I have found inspiring!

So much to LOVE about Nettle!  Stay tuned for my favorite recipes.

 

Lady Spring Invites Old Man Winter For Tea

Lady Spring invites old Man Winter for tea

She greets him at the point of balance between

deep Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox.

She courts his knowing, his experience

with grace and a curiosity, with new eyes

She wraps her arms, gently around his heart

warming it a bit

He thinks she tricks him

into a Northbound lullaby

She serves him tea, sharing her love

of following his dormancy

so much potential lies within his

quiet landscape....


 

Only when the gentle

warm winds bring a rain that washes

away those hard edges of darkness

He falls for her new beauty-

returning to his Northern home.

 

*an excerpt from The Boreal Herbal: Wild Food and Medicine Plants of the North; Aroma Borealis Press; 2011 Beverley Gray

 

IMG_20180330_105547043.jpg