I remember when I was a child reading a fairy tale about a princess who had to make something or other with stinging nettles and I could just tell that it wasn't a pleasant job. It said as much right in the book; the stinging nettles stung her hands.
I've just Googled "fairy tale nettles" and yes, there it is, the story of The Wild Swans. It's got a wicked stepmother, a banished princess, magic, accusations of witchcraft, more magic, and those stinging nettles -- and, of course, swans. There is more than one version, but the Danish one by Hans Christian Anderson, seems to be the one I read when I was little.
In it, the princess' brothers are changed into swans by the wicked stepmother, and the only way they can change back is if the princess makes shirts for them from stinging nettles. With one thing and another, she is accused of witchcraft and is about to be burned at the stake, but she doggedly works on those shirts until the last moment, flings them over the swans to change them back into her brothers, and brings about a happy ending.
I wondered if stinging nettles were a real plant, because there's a lot of made-up stuff in fairy tales. Also, I'd never heard anyone in my little world talk about stinging nettles as something that lived in our province or even our country. So the question just sat in the back of my mind for something like fifty years until the internet came along, and also blogging, and I started finding references in other countries to stinging nettles as FOOD -- although, to be sure, you must cook the leaves and stems if you do not wish to have heck in your mouth.
Well, guess what I ran into in my own yard a few weeks ago, and again yesterday? Yes, you get a gold star.
Both times I was weeding and found them with my hands, which had predictable results. I was wearing thin plastic gloves which I use instead of my heavy gloves for many gardening jobs because they are less clumsy and keep my hands cleaner than no gloves at all. Both times, I spent twenty-four hours regretting it.
The first time I was stung, for reasons I no longer remember but can guess at (4x daily trips to my mom's for eye drops, for example) I promptly forgot about it. I forgot to check the internet to see if we even have stinging nettles in Nova Scotia. I forgot to wonder if there were more plants in my yard. I forgot what it looked like. I forgot to wear heavier gloves when pulling weeds again. I forgot that I ever got hurt.
Yesterday it happened all over again. My thumb hurt so badly I couldn't use it and even though I didn't use it, it still hurt. I was so affronted I quit weeding and spent the day on the computer. One of the first things I did was Google stinging nettles and sure enough, we got 'em. They apparently spread through their roots, or you can buy them for $4.00 Canadian for several hundred seeds if you are so inclined.
What I was inclined to do was go outside with my thick gloves and dig up that plant and any others that looked like it and lay them in the sun to shrivel up, after which I used my thick gloves to wrap them in newspaper and placed them carefully in the compost bin for pickup.
Here is pictorial evidence, by the way:
|Growing right under my nose|
|Ye shall grow no more, wicked plant|
Do you have stinging nettles where you live?
Have you ever gotten stung?
Have you ever eaten stinging nettles?
Are you an adventurous eater?
What is the most adventurous thing you have ever eaten?