Rons Primitive Skills

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Monday, July 11, 2011

My nettle patch-primitive cordage and healthy food.

 These are photos of one patch of stinging nettles, Urtica dioica, I have been watching. Stinging nettle is one of the premier cordage plants. These are on the average 10 to 12 feet tall. They are the benefit of a very wet spring and early summer. I want to harvest just a few for summer cordage experiments, but the majority will be harvested after the first frost. According to most folks who know nettles and my own experience, the fiber is better after the frost. It should be harvested before it rains because nettle is prone to deteriorate quickly when wet. I have never tried retting it but it has been done and the smell is something else, so I hear. The young leaves near the top of the plant are edible, but they must be cooked because the stinging mechanism contains formic acid and only heat will neutralize it. The stinger is like a tiny syringe made of glass, in the nettles case it is a natural glass called silica. When the "glass" is broken by something rubbing up against it, the formic acid, which is somewhat under pressure, and from capillary action, enters the body and stings like mad! Formic acid is what ants carry in their stingers and fire ants have the most potent brew.
Here's a good site for more info on the edibility of nettles.

Amazingly tall nettles-12+ feet
A nice patch of nettles in the background. Very tall and healthy.


Roger said...

Hi Ron,
Good overview, but I have to comment on a few of your observations.
First, you can render the sting harmless by freezing and drying as well as heating. Also, all the leaves, not just the top ones, are edible and delicious, especially when the plant is young. Very high in vitamins and iron. Just be sure to stop harvesting when the flowers appear, as the plant then becomes high in chemicals that adversely affect the kidneys.
Good site, Ron.


Ron Layton said...

Thanks Roger. That's what this blog is all about. I appreciate any and all input and added information. I didn't know that about the flowering plant. Thank you. Well done.