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are all Nettles edible?

 
Posts: 49
Location: SW Ontario, Canada
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HI I was wondering are all nettles edible? I live in SW Ontario, Canada (just on the shore of Lake Erie) and there are a couple of nettles here on our property but I was wondering is there only a type of nettle that can be eaten or is there many varieties? I know the one particular nettle that is here in abundance has a real sting to it! If I brush up against it it bothers me for hours while my husband it only bothers for a few minutes. Thanks for your time!
 
pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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No, some plants with the word "nettle" in the name are not edible. The "nettle" most often referred to as edible is Urtica dioica http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Urtica+dioica

It's vitally important to identify the taxonomic name of any plant one wants to communicate about on a messageboard, and not adhere to common names. Learning about local edible plants from local foragers using common names is fine because one is right there looking at the plant, but if discussing remotely or learning from books, one needs to know the Latin name, in my opinion. Otherwise it's difficult or impossible to know which exact plant is being discussed.

 
Misty Rayne
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Location: SW Ontario, Canada
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Good advise! I wonder if I can take a good pic and post it and see what you all think?
 
gardener
Posts: 357
Location: Beaver County, Pennsylvania (~ zone 6)
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Good idea, but I'll hazard to guess that the one you brush against and get stung is Urtica dioica that you can eat. Google images is another great tool for plant ID. Just make sure you positively ID it before you eat it.
 
Posts: 62
Location: Australia
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Not only urtica dioica is edible, there are many others. All the urtica plants have stinging hairs. Some nettles such as urtica ferox for example can cause nasty stings that can harm a human or pet though, to best to stick with common nettles. Urtica dioica is by far the most common.
 
pollinator
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Location: Englehart, Ontario, Canada
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Well, I have been fortunate and having just posted about transplanting nettles because I had none have now found 2 patches on my property, one by the composter and 1 by what will be the heating shed (see homesteading, 11 acres, almost, and a dream). Now, though I have used nettle as a survival food I would appreciate practical tips on harvest, storage and culinary use of the nettles. I have in the past simply harvested the upper 2 - 3 leaf whorles and eaten raw or in soups/stews in the bush. Please advise.
 
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White and purple dead-nettles are delicious as well. You can use the flowers as edible decoration on salads and spreads. The flowers of white dead-nettle make a wonderful (sun) tea as well. And the leaves can be used as a spinach alternative.
 
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I recently tried the Australian native nettle, yes it's edible but it is a nuissance to harvest and process.
 
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Harvesting Urtica dioica is a touchy endeavour. Gloves, clippers and a bin or box are necessary, as well as long sleeves and pants if wading into rank growths. Once the turgor pressure has dropped (i.e. the plant wilts), the stinging elements are harmless. I harvest the plants until they begin to flower. They can cause digestive upsets if harvested any later.

If indeed your "nettle" is U. dioica, then yes it is most certainly an edible. However, in these parts, there is also the Horse Nettle, Solanum carolinense, which contains solanine, a dangerous substance to ingest. I second Tyler's call to use the latin, and be sure of the id.
 
Posts: 121
Location: Council, ID
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Fedco in Maine has seeds for U. dioica. They start out small, but by the middle of the season they are harvestable.
I picked all summer just by cutting them back if they got too far along and started flowering. They regrew fresh tops in a week or so. They are still out there trying to put out new growth, from the base mostly now - we've had a few nights around 15.
Yum. I just love them, lightly steamed.
 
Posts: 1400
Location: Verde Valley, AZ.
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Epples book on plant ID is a must have, IMHO.

Botany In A Day.

I thought you were supposed to heat all nettles, unless you were using the sting for arthritis......
 
Isaac Hill
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Posts: 357
Location: Beaver County, Pennsylvania (~ zone 6)
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Morgan Morrigan wrote:

I thought you were supposed to heat all nettles, unless you were using the sting for arthritis......



You can soak them or dry them or just roll them in a ball and eat them raw. I put them in kimchee.
 
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