Thursday, April 19, 2012

Spring Greens

Dandelion has yummy greens with a bitter bite.
--> It is time for Spring Greens!  This is a very wet spring here in the Willamette Valley.  The nights were cold a long time. The ground has been water logged,  and the plants are hesitant but still appearing. All the spring greens are becoming available for eating and my mouth starts watering in anticipation of tasty herbal feasts awaiting my palate. You too can enjoy the bounty of spring. This is the time to collect nettles, chickweed, dandelion, wood sorrel and other yummy morsels. Make sure you identify them correctly before harvesting.

Collect in the spring as a food or up until flowering to use the leaves for medicine. Wear gloves when harvesting and processing nettles. I have more than once, been on a hike and been surprised by a patch of nettles. In my overwhelming glee at finding the first spring nettles I have temporarily lost my mind and decided to collect them without gloves. Each time I have nursed my wounds, questioning such a crazy decision. No matter how carefully I harvest, this tasty plant reminds me that she is protecting herself and she is to be respected. Luckily once the plant is cooked the sting disappears and you can savor this delicacy without concern. Stinging nettle is beneficial as a spring tonic and rejuvenator. As a medicine it tends to be very stimulating and drying. It has a supportive effect on our immune system, spleen, circulatory system, urinary tract, nervous system, respiratory tract, digestive system and the endocrine system; including the adrenals, thyroid, and the pancreas. It nourishes our entire body as well as nourishing us spiritually by increasing receptivity to the natural energetic flow of our spirit. Nettle is rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and silicic acid. The high mineral content may be the reason for nettle tea’s ability to reduce the severity and occurrence of leg cramps as well as menstrual cramps and its ability to support strong bones.

Nettle is also beneficial in excessive menstrual bleeding. It is used for chronic respiratory, digestive and urinary tract illnesses that involve excessive mucus. Nettle favors elimination of uric acid and is therefore useful in gouty arthritis. It is used in hay fever, asthma, and edema. Nettle is best used long term when treating chronic illnesses. I use nettles for my own health as well as patients. It is one of my favorite herbs. I can personally attest to its efficacy in most of the areas mentioned. Due to its pleasant taste, I usually give it to patients in the form of a tea.

To make Nettle Tea: Tea - 1-2 heaping tablespoons per cup of water as an overnight infusion or if in a hurry simmered for 30 minutes (won't taste as good).

My current herb class recently made a nice nettle pesto with fresh nettles, organic walnuts, organic extra virgin olive oil, and organic goat parmesan cheese. We enjoyed it on quinoa.  Quite yummy.  Remember the stinging nettles do sting, wear gloves to collect and process them. If you also want to make a pesto, I suggest putting them through both your food processor and a hand mortar and pestle to assure you destroy their stinging ability before eating them as a pesto. If you don’t want to go to all this work, then you can steam them before making them into a pesto as the heat will also destroy their stinging ability.

Here are additional photos of spring plants to help you in identifying them. The chickweed aerial parts are added to salads as are the leaves of wood sorrel. Wood sorrel has a very pleasant sour taste.
Closer look at chickweed flower.
Wood sorrel.


  1. I liked this post so much, I shared it with my online herb group, Sharol. Now several think your nettles pictures don't look like the nettles they have, so I wanted to ask you, what species is this? thanks!

    1. What a good catch. I just looked at it and that is figwort in the foreground. They were so small when I photographed them in early spring that I did not notice the figwort had invaded my nettle bed and was only paying attention to having the plants in focus. I am embarrassed about not being more careful than that. I have removed the photo and I will go out and take a new photo and post it as soon as I have time. It will be a summer photo unfortunately. Figwort looks and tastes very different than nettle. So sorry if I confused anyone. Thank you for pointing this out.

  2. I should also look at my comments more often. Just too busy on my farm. Wish I had looked earlier.

  3. Okay, I found a spring nettle photo. I only has nettle in it. It is posted above.

  4. No worries, I haven't been online in two weeks as too busy with grandchildren and gardening also:)