Thursday, February 14, 2013

Plant Helper

Every year around this time they appear out of the ground as though overnight, quivering under their green hoods when a sudden breeze runs through the trees. They offer themselves up willingly if you approach them the right way; cautious, gentle, but raise up their heckles and prickles if you're absent-minded or greedy.
When I was a little girl, my mother made pancakes and tea with them, and still their smell reminds me of the Northern spring.

If I had to name one plant as my ally, my constant companion; it would be nettles, the first wild edible of the spring, the messenger of the coming abundance.

In fact, if there is one constant on this blog, it's that every year around March, I post about my nettle collecting adventures.

C. and I walked the woods collecting them the first month we lived here together as husband and wife. They got me through the really hard spring of 2011. Last year, they helped me with the constant moving around and endless sickness.

They are the perfect food for early spring, when there's not much else to eat in the woods, or in the fields. They are life-force of the earth distilled, ready to fortify you against allergies, colds, aid lactating women to produce milk, fight arthritis, make your hair glossy...
Most all that ails me, has some cure in Urtica Dioica.

They are both medicine and food. They are fiber. They are tender and tough and soft and prickly. Like most things I like, they're a little bit of a contradiction.
Because of this winter's mildness, I had a feeling that nettle sisters might be poking their heads out of the damp earth a little early this year. So the other morning I headed out to where they usually first appear in our woods, a small clearing filled with light even in midwinter.

"Where are you going?' C. asked as I was leaving.
"To see if they're here already."
"Who's that? Oh, the nettle people." In our family, everyone is people, plants, animals, birds, humans. All people.
And there they were, my familiars.

Nothing signals the season's turning like they do. Under the new moon, as they should be collected, they make promises of growth and fertility and light and nourishment. Come cold rains, or Nor'Easters, no matter, spring is here.
Some nights I could swear I hear them whispering behind the house as I fall asleep.

ps. Thank you so much for all you amazing responses to my last post, they've been so fun to read and mean so much to me. I'll be responding to them all later today. ♡


  1. love this! I love nettles and I'm going to get out of the city and find some this weekend. there are a few peeking out nearby but they're by railroad land and might be in an area that's sprayed. the railroad killed off my favorite wild blackberries a couple years ago... :( happy gathering moon child! xo m

  2. Beautiful post. I could feel spring as I read it. Thank you! I'm not sure if they grow hear where I am in the South, but I am going to keep my eyes open. I just have to say as a new reader of your blog I absolutely love your writing. I was having dinner with my husband the other night and he was asking me questions about blogging. I told him what about it is that I am finding like minded people. Where I live (small town in the south) there are not a lot of people I feel that understand my deep love and need of nature. I am so thankful to have stumbled upon your blog. I love that you regard the plants and animals the way you do, and speak of their whispers. : )

    Very inspired.

    In Peace,

  3. oooh the nettle people are such lively and fascinating friends! i am ashamed to admit i have never used or tried nettles. i wonder if they grow rampant down here as well? i am sure they do and maybe this will be the year to go seeking them!

  4. As soon as the nettle people start popping up here I'd love to try making this:

  5. yay for the nettle people! i always enjoy these posts :D

  6. Haha, we only ever find nettles by accident. Which is funny isn't it. The bad way, the itch and sting. I think I could accurately mark your seasons and the years by your Nettle people posts. x

  7. i was delighted to read your post saturday afternoon, after fern and i got home from our own nettle excursion! kinship!

    that first pic takes my breath away...the grey of the trees, the illumination of you and the nettles. nettle ally, indeed. how amazing to have nettle patches around your home...this year the city nettles are not showing up, seemingly sprayed by urban upkeep. and i always feel badly taking too many (even just the tips) from wild spots. how much are you able to collect for yourself? and do you ever try to cultivate them? i've noticed they don't like being cultivated, but will then volunteer in some other spot where i swear i didn't plant seeds. you are a lovely and delightful nettle gathering elf, as always.

  8. how do you prepare your nettles for tea, Milla? we have sooooo many growing here and I'm ready to harness their generosity like the secret plant thieving hippy that I am.. J. xx

    1. Just snip off the tops of new plants (old, blooming nettles have toxins), down to the second set of leaves, so that the plant can keep growing, boil water, let cool and pour over the leaves. You can cut the into smaller pieces as well. You can also make sun tea from them, if you've got sun. Also, they make for fabulous greens. Eat me, drink me, dry me for later they say ;)

    2. Thank you! I will head out with scissors and basket and experiment :)

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