Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 08:24 pm
In our garden we have deliberately created a corner where nettles are allowed to grow. The hairy plants are so versatile that we are glad to have the “weed” in our garden. For example, we use nettles to make a slurry, cook nettle spinach from them and even use the seeds. These are not only delicious, but have it really in itself – small powerhouses you could also call them. I would like to show you what you should bear in mind when harvesting nettle seeds yourself and how you can best process the little delicacies.
Nettle seeds – traditionally used for various ailments
Nettle seeds are rich in protein and contain high-quality unsaturated fatty acids. A study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition suggests that the seeds have an antibacterial effect. In traditional natural medicine, the seeds are used for bladder infections, against fatigue or for detoxification. The seeds are also said to be supportive in rheumatism or gout to relieve pain. In the past, they were even used as an aphrodisiac. Unfortunately, all these applications are not scientifically proven and are based on experience reports. Nevertheless, it is worth trying the seeds for support in case of discomfort or as a supplement to a balanced diet.
Harvesting nettle seeds – what you should bear in mind
There are both male and female plants of the stinging nettle. In botany, this type of plant growth is called “dioecious”. While the male flowers contain only pollen, the female flowers develop into seeds. The inflorescences differ in color and direction of growth. Yellowish green and horizontally oriented are the male flowers, rather gray-green and drooping grow the female.
When harvesting, it is best to wear a top with long sleeves and long pants. This way you will be protected from the unpleasantly burning hairs. Gardening gloves are recommended for your hands.
A trick if you want to spontaneously collect nettles: Briskly strip from the bottom up over the stem and leaves so that you have the entire plant in your fist. This way the stinging hairs can’t penetrate the skin and simply break off. For this method you have to practice a little and not always the itchy wheals can be avoided. However, with time you become more courageous.
If you don’t want to process the whole plant, cut off only the seed stalks. Just drop the inflorescences with the seeds into a paper bag.
The best time to harvest nettle seeds is between July and October. At this time, the female plants bear the characteristic downward hanging gray-green flowers. Harvest them best on a sunny, dry day.
Do not harvest the seeds along roads or fields. There they may be contaminated with fertilizers and exhaust fumes. On hiking trails or in your own garden, you are sure to find some nettles that are suitable for harvesting.
Drying and storage of harvested nettle seeds.
Once home, simply spread the inflorescences on a clean kitchen towel to dry. Depending on the weather and heat, the seeds will dry within one to two days. They can then be easily pulled off the flower stalk. If the seeds do not come off right away, you can place the flower strands in a fine mesh sieve and push the small seeds through. To store the dry seeds, a screw-top jar is suitable, which you should keep in the dark. The seeds will keep in it for at least a year – if they have not been used up by then.
Use nettle seeds in the kitchen: Ideas for processing
We like to give the nettle seeds as a topping on salads or herbal curd. They also taste great on buttered bread. Here are some more ideas on how you can use the seeds:
- as an addition to homemade bread.
- To refine homemade hazelnut pesto.
- Roast the nettle seeds in a pan. They will taste much nuttier and can even be made into nettle brittle.
- Sprinkle the seeds over soups and sauces or add them to a green smoothie.
Harvesting nettle seeds: other tips
You can also eat the nettle seeds fresh. However, keep in mind that the seeds, like the leaves, have small stinging hairs, so they can cause a mildly acrid irritation in the mouth.
Give away a jar of seeds you have harvested yourself and decorate it with a pretty label. This way you can bring something completely different to the next invitation as a gift.
If you have “burned” yourself too much on the hairs of the nettles, clear, cool water and a little soap will help. This will wash off the hairs and cool the area at the same time. Use a cold cloth or a (homemade) cooling pad to further cool the affected area. By the way, over time you will harden against the stinging hairs and the liquid they release onto the skin.
Have fun collecting them and trying out delicious recipes!