Discover the power of nettle seeds, their health benefits, when and how to forage them with quick and simple recipes that you can try at home.
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Even though it is autumn don’t ignore nettles as you can still benefit from their nutritional value. While nettle leaves are best to forage in early spring, seeds and roots of nettle are best to collect in early autumn.
In this article you will learn
- Why are nettle seeds nutritious and their benefits for our health
- How and when to forage them
- Harvesting techniques
- How to use the nettle seeds
- Recipes with nettle seeds
Superpower of nettle seeds
The most nutritious part of the nettle is hidden in its seeds. While vitamins (A and C) and minerals ( Iron, magnesium, calcium and silicon) are contained in the whole plant, nettle seeds are also rich in fatty acids and vitamin E. Therefore very beneficial for our skin and nervous system.
Health benefits of nettle seeds
There are studies confirming medicinal benefits and uses of nettle however very few when it comes to its seeds. This study confirms clinical use of nettle seed extracts for treatment of renal dysfunction.
In folk medicine nettle seeds stimulate the body and act as tonic when one is exhausted, fatigue or burned out.
According to Research herbalist and forager, Monica Wilde - Seeds stimulate the nervous system and may help to improve mood, appetite and sleep. They might also influence memory and learning.
Nettle seeds are also used as an aphrodisiac that help enhance libido.
Harvesting nettle seeds
As the latin name of nettle (Urtica dioica) suggests (dioica means two houses) they produce two kind of plants - male and female. While male plants produce pollen to fertilize the female plants, they in turn produce the seeds.
Both plants are edible but when it comes to harvesting the seeds one must be careful to search for female plants as their seeds are full of nutritional goodies.
The female flowers are more massive, longer and their seeds are pointing down, overhanging in slatted arrangements. The male flowers with four stamen on the other hands are shorter with stringier flowers that point out the corners. We want to collect the seeds from female flowers only as these are nutricius seeds we need.
Please note that sometimes both types of flowers occur on one plant and the nettle is then monoecious.
Either you can gather each seed cluster individually holding the whole plant in one hand with gloves and use the other hand to remove the clusters one by one. The seeds are not stingy so I didn’t use a glove on the other hand as it was faster.
Second technique is to remove the leaves first and then strip the entire stem with seed clusters into a cardboard box or bowl. That method was faster.
The third technique is to strip the stem with leaves and seeds on the parchment paper that flters out the leaves.
The best time to harvest the seeds
Harvest the seeds in their green unriped stage when they contain the most oils and alcaloids, once they turn brown the seeds are of no use. This is usually during the month of July and August to early September, depending on the climate.
When fresh they have the best nutritional value and can last up to 3 months. You can dry them and extend their shelf life to up to one year.
Drying the clusters of seeds
I dried the whole clusters, just simply spreading them on parchment paper and letting them dry for 2 days in a sunny place.
Then I pressed them through a sieve. With my hands, I rubbed them in between my fingers to remove the little stems. See the video for visualization.
When you go to harvest the seeds, take garden gloves to avoid any little stings.
Uses of nettle seeds
- A treasure of protein source, nettle seeds are easy to add to any smoothies, yoghurt, granola or oatmeal. They are very nutritious and 1 day a teaspoon is all you need.
- If you want to make sure you use them on a daily basis add them to sea salt and use them on salads or meals that you don’t cook. Cooking will destroy most of their benefits.
3. I also like to add them to raw honey and spread them on toast, waffles or pancakes
4. They have a delicious taste and make for a great addition to homemade crackers or nettle bread
5. Substitute them for other types of seeds such as poppy or chia seeds
6. Just recently I made these homemade pralines and they taste wonderful. The recipe is easy, you just need 100 g homemade marzipan (made of almond flour and honey), two tbsp of nettle seeds, 1 tbsp of any other seeds such as poppy seeds or elderberry powder and 40 g of dark chocolate 70%.
a) Mix marzipan with poppy seeds and nettle seeds and shape balls of the size of cherries.
b) Dissolve the chocolate in a water bath.
c) Soak the balls in chocolate and leave them on baking paper to harden.
7. Nettle seeds can be made into a tincture, macerate them in 40% ethanol or infuse them in vinegar (ratio 1:5 - seeds: liquid). Crush the seeds before soaking them in liquid for 4 weeks. Strain them through cheesecloth and use 2 ml three times a day.
To stimulate the health benefits of nettle seeds use 1-2 tbsp a day. For many people 1 teaspoon a day is sufficient.
When fresh store them refrigerated for up to 3 months in an airtight container. When dried, use an airtight container and keep them out of direct light for up to 1 year, no need to refrigerate them
The green nettle seeds have a crunchy texture with a pleasant salty nutty taste, this makes them easily addictive. They are softer and easy to eat, unlike other seeds.