10 Interesting Facts About Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)
1. Leaves and steams of the nettles has small fragile hair, which actually are the capsules, full of several liquid chemicals, including formic acid. While touching the leaf, a hair, sharp like a needle, gets into your skin, then breaks down, and liquid gets injected into your skin. Ouch! The sting of a Nettle may be cured by rubbing the part with Rosemary, Mint or Sage leaves.
2. Nettle stems contain a fibre, which may be (and was!) used for making ropes, sails and fine linen cloth, suitable even for shirts and beddings. The first known nettle textile find in Europe is from the Bronze Age and there is evidence of nettle cloth production in Scandinavia, Poland, Germany, Russia. That’s why sometimes nettle is called „poor relative of Flax“. In some of these countries nettle fibre was used for textiles up to 17th or even 19th century, but finally was replaced by cotton. Recently there is again the interest to fibre of nettle, as it grows very easily and the textile has good characteristics. It doesn‘t sting!
3. If you went fishing on hot summer day, how could you preserve the fish you got? I have to say - in Eastern Europe people fish for food, not for taking pictures! So, how to preserve the fish up to bringing it home fresh? To wrap into stinging nettles! – it would not let bacteria to multiply neither to start fish to smell bad.
4. For ages until now nettles are used in medicine. I am not a doctor to describe what to heal with nettles, how and when to use them, but I know, nettles are not only for herbal teas – the stinging itself may be a cure against some rheumatic pains.
5. Modest nettle flowers have genders! The male or barren flowers have stamens only, and the female or fertile flowers have only pistil or seed-producing organs . A plant will bear either male or female flowers throughout, that‘s why the specific name of the plant, dioica, which means 'two houses.'
6. Leaves of the nettle may be used for producing beautiful and permanent green dye for woollen stuffs and even for food, while roots boiled with alum, produce a yellow colour.
7. In Dorset (UK) each year Annual stinging Nettle Eating Contest takes place. Held as part of a charity beer festival at the Bottle Inn in the village of Marshwood near Crewkerne, the event attracts participants from around the world.
Contestants are given two foot long stalks of stinging nettles and have one hour to eat as many leaves as possible. The winner is the person with the longest length of empty stalk. Only nettles provided by the organisers can be eaten, competitors are not allowed to bring their own, no mouth numbing substances are permitted - although a swig of beer in between mouthfuls is always encouraged.
8. Nettle acts as a hair tonic and growth stimulant, restoring colour, and beauty to hair. It improves the health of skin, scalp, and hair; strengthens weakened hair follicles; and removes dandruff. It is composed into some shampoos, but also simple nettle tea can be used as a skin toner and hair rinse.
9. In many nations exists the belief, that stinging nettles have magic powers. People would put some nettles leaves into pockets to be safe from lighting, or some dry leaves into shoes – that evil power would not be able to lead them to vicious places. Some nettles would put under the door, preventing evil to enter or would make brooms of nettles – to sweep evils from the rooms.
The belief is, that most powerful are adult, but not old nettles, gathered at the night of young moon, better in Tuesday. And please don‘t take the whole plant with roots – if the plant loose relation with the land , it loose part of their powers as well.
10. And finally nettles are really good for food. I must admit, I haven‘t made myself any fibre of nettles, neither I ever put my bare body into the bush of nettles to cure rheumatic pain, nor I have any magic leaves in my pockets. But for many years I put fresh spring leaves of nettles into soups I cook, in salads, pies... I mix it with butter, cheese. I make gorgeous pesto of nettles. For winter I prepare frozen fresh leaves and powder of dried nettles and enrich winter meals with vitamins and minerals.
Stinging nettle rules!