Thursday, January 14, 2010

Recommended Reading Material for Winter 2010

Out of all of my herbals, my two favorites would definitely have to be Stalking the Healthful Herbs by Euell Gibbons, and Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West by Michael Moore. I would recommend reading Gibbons' book first, as he writes a fabulous narrative - it's as though you are taking a walk in the woods together and discussing each plant as you come across it. When you are finished with Stalking the Healthful Herbs, move on to Moore's book for a deeper look at the medicinal properties of each herb.

The two herbs that I am learning the most about at the moment (and am the most excited to grow this spring) are Stinging Nettles and Yellow (or Curly) Dock. These two plants (as with many plants) are considered "weeds" by the uninitiated, but to the modern herbalist are invaluable tools of the natural world.

Interesting note: Yellow Dock can be used to ease the pain and rash of a brush against Stinging Nettles. Stinging Nettles almost always grow next to Yellow Dock, but Yellow Dock does not always grow next to Stinging Nettles.

Nettles appear to be one of the "super herbs" of the plant world - I find it interesting that so many think it's nothing but an annoying weed. Drying or cooking disables the "stingers" on nettles, and allows for its nutritional and medicinal properties to be utilized. Nettles are rich in vitamins A & C, high in protein, filled with chlorophyll, and probably exceedingly rich in trace minerals as well. Grazing animals will not eat live nettles, but will avidly gobble up dried nettles. A diet of nettles will improve an animal's coat and boost milk and egg production in dairy livestock and poultry, respectively. The stalks of mature Nettles yield a valuable textile fiber when processed like flax. Gather the first tender shoots of spring for eating, and make sure to wear gloves! Nettles can also be used in place of rennet for curdling milk. Is there any end to the wonder that is this plant?


Dan said...

I'm trying to grow some stinging nettles for the first time this year too. And I was searching for stuff about stratifying the seeds, and found your blog. Are you stratifying yours? If you are, are you cold stratifying? Warm stratifying? I've never stratified seeds before, so this is all new to me. And I've been searching for info on this, and so far I haven't had much luck. Plenty of stuff on stratifying in general. Just not much that's specific to nettles. Probably cuz most people think it's just a weed:)

Apothecary Inn said...

I did not stratify my seed because I planted it in mid-winter, thus allowing Nature to stratify it for me. I have not heard of nettles needing stratification the way some other seeds do to germinate, but if you want to grow them, I recommend direct seeding in the fall.

Dan said...

I did some more research, and I think my best bet is to cold stratify for 4-6 weeks. I did try planting some seeds last year, so this isn't really my _first_ time trying. But I didn't stratify them, and nothing happened. But maybe those will come up this year, since they've been outside all winter. Unfortunately they're not where I want them anymore. I planted them directly in my garden, and it probably wasn't the best idea:) I started a thread on the gardenweb herbs forum, and someone mentioned they won't be very big the first year, if growing from seeds. So now I'm going to see if I can find some cuttings to get a faster start. I want to use them as fertilizer, along with some comfrey. So I'm hoping I can get a lot of 'em to grow quickly. Anyway, good luck with yours. And thanks for your reply.