Steve Gilman sgilman at
Wed Jul 31 10:32:39 EDT 2002

Ode to Nettles
	Although nettles really sting (delivering jolts of formic acid through
the fine hairs that cover the plant) and can become weedy if let go, this
discussion of Urtica dioica shouldn’t go by without acknowledgement of its
finer qualities. Growers might well establish a manageable patch in an out
of the way location.
	Nettles are very high in iron and are a longtime anemia remedy and
vitality enhancer. Its one of the best spring greens around, non-bitter,
delicious and nutritious when picked (with gloves) when young and tender
(up to 6 inches high or so), steamed or stir-fryed and served like
spinach. Chickens love the greens as well and nettles are known to prevent
coccidiosis and diarrhea in poultry.
	Mostly though, growers should check out its attributes as a powerful
plant stimulator, humus producer and soil builder. BioDynamic growers have
long used it as a compost preparation to stimulate fermentation and impart
other qualities. Years back I read about burying bundles of nettles in
shallow trenches. When I dug them up in the spring there was no sign of
plant fiber, just a thick layer of crumbly blackish-brown humusy soil that
made an excellent potting soil amendment for transplants and the herb
plants I sold at the Farmers Market. A fermented extract can be used
in-season as a spray additive to fortify plants, tomatoes especially. Just
cover with water and let the nettles completely decompose over three weeks
or so.
	If your nettle patch outgrows your love for them they can always be
controlled or destroyed by repeated cuttings at maturity – any earlier
only strengthens the root system.

Steve Gilman
Ruckytucks Farm

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