28 March 2011
First Signs of Spring!
The great, deep green harbinger of spring for me is Stinging Nettle. This plant is a signal that, yes indeed, we have made it through another winter, and now the spring delights are not far away. Especially wonderful is Stinging Nettle soup. As soon as the plant grows between, say, one to two feet, usually by late April around these parts, I will harvest and make soup. Don't worry, Nettle grows back very fast!
I was given a few little Stinging Nettle plants by the mother of one of my Brookdale College students a few years ago, and they have grown and grown. She heard I was talking about Nettle and Susun Weed in my research writing class and just gave me the plants on a whim. I have never even met her personally, but I have to say her gift is one of the best presents I have ever received in my entire life! Another student once gave me Nettle seeds, but they never grew a lick.
One time a rogue landscaper cut down all my Nettle, I mean right down to the ground! Nothing left but dirt and a few wisps of cut green leaves scattered about the hedges under which the Nettle lived. I cried when I arrived home, but my tears were unnecessary. The Stinging Nettle grew back in a few weeks! Now, it is stronger than ever and always spreading out, from roots under the ground, more and more each year.
You are lucky if you have a large amount growing nearby; then you can harvest and dry for Nettle infusions. I have just enough for soup a few times a year, and the nourishing properties of that soup are rather amazing. Of course, I also simply enjoy having the plant growing near my house. It is nice just to go out and sit with the Nettle and let it sting me once in a while! I'm not a masochist; the stings help keep allergies away! The process teaches my immune system not to react too strongly to common irritants.
My body is so used to it by now that any redness or irritation from the Nettle stings go away in a short amount of time. If you are going to try this, start with a small area of your body first, an area where some itching and discomfort won't be a huge problem as you get used to it, and gradually sting yourself by brushing lightly against the Nettle leaves; then note your body's response. Just keep it away from your face, wash your hands with mild soap afterwards, and don't touch your eyes! I learned that by experience!
As far as I understand it, regular stings teach your body not to release too much histamine thereby lessening your allergic response to whatever is igniting your immune system. Try it sometime! I couldn't cut our grass on a dry day years ago without my throat darn near closing up by the end of the bi-weekly ordeal; now I seldom if ever have a problem with grass, dust, pollen, etc. If I am concerned, I'll let the Nettle sting me before cutting the grass, and no worries.