Why on earth would you want to allow nettles to grow in your garden let alone actually cultivate them? It turns out that are very good reasons why you should do just that. One that is not mentioned in the article I am quoting from is that nettles provide food for the caterpillars of several butterflies. The article “In Praise of Stinging Nettle” is by Gayla Trail and comes from her You Grow Girl blog.
The little patch of stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) that I?ve got at the back of my garden is starting to emerge from its winter dormancy. Years ago, when I was first ?bit? by this plant, I never could have imagined that one day I would grow it in my garden, or that I would be jumping up and down and clapping enthusiastically upon its first appearance each spring. Oh, how things change.
For those who have yet to experience the sting in the nettle, it may be difficult to comprehend how such a benign looking plant can be such a terrible menace, yet powerful healer rolled into one. Touching the plant creates a painful bite that radiates out from the place of contact. The pain reminds me of an ant bite. A sting may originate with your finger, but depending on the potency of the plant, you can sometimes feel its effect up into your arm. And it lingers. There have been times when I?ve felt the buzzing for hours afterward. Friends have told me stories about running through fields as children, their bare legs ravaged by contact with the plants.
My own first experience with stinging nettle was years ago while browsing books along Harbord, a street in Toronto that was once known for an abundance of quality used book shops. I have a sensory impulse towards plants and flowers that sometimes gets me into trouble. I find it especially difficult to walk past an herb without touching and then lifting my hand to my nose to take in the scent. During the growing season I must carry out this involuntary action dozens of times per day as I travel the length of my own garden, reaching, grasping, and inhaling as I move. That day on Harbord Street, I approached a cluster of herb seedlings that had been set out for sale. And, as is my way, I reached out to touch and smell the plants, almost without thinking. One plant had the textured appearance of catnip, and in one quick, involuntary action, I reached out and brushed a leaf between my fingers and quickly brought the hand up to my nose. There was no smell, but there was something else. Something foreign and surprising. ?Pain! My god, the pain!? I was shocked and a little bit outraged. ?What in the wha? is happening?? A quick glance at the tag and I knew this was not catnip. This was something else entirely.
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