The purple of Stinging Nettle’s shoots always stands out in the early spring, when other plants are only just beginning to put up their shoots. But these tiny Stinging Nettle have been waiting under the snow all winter for warm weather, sunlight, and the dampness of Spring thaw, and so they are among the first to begin growing. In this narrow, littered alleyway near West Ave and Robert St, their eager leaves and stems put a smile on our face.
Normally, trying to pick leaves off a Stinging Nettle means your hands will be tingling and burning for the next hour or so, but so early in the season, the hollow hairs on the stem and leaves that will soon be full of defensive chemicals are not yet fully developed. It is also at this time of year that the leaves and stems of Stinging Nettle are at their tenderest and most delicious. High in iron and other vitamins and minerals, a meal of Nettle leaves is just the thing for our bodies as we come out of Winter into a more active Spring.
Stinging Nettles like damp, slightly shaded spots, and they tend to come up in the same places year after year, so a good patch of Nettles is a precious thing to find. Even as the season progresses, the chemicals in the Nettle’s hairs break down if you dry them or steam them, so if you’re lucky enough to find some now when they’re easy to spot, keep coming back all summer long. Stinging Nettle are a great reason to get down close to the ground in these mucky Spring days, get your knees dirty, and see what you find!