From mid-summer onwards our native superfood, the stinging nettle offers us their plump green seeds. They hang like jewels in strings beneath the leaves and if you’re very careful, you can just about pick the seeds without stinging yourself on the stems or leaves that surround them, but I recommend gloves for gathering nettle seeds.
I keep a jar of dried seeds to hand in my kitchen and add a teaspoon to my porridge or smoothie each day. The energy and vitality they give me make harvesting them one of my top priorities in the foraging calendar.
The seeds are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids. Linoleic and linolenic acids found in nettle seeds are used by our bodies to make the important essential fatty acids omega 3 and omega 6. Omega fatty acids are essential for healthy cellular function as they are an integral part of cell membranes throughout the body and affect the function of the cell receptors in these membranes.
Nettle seeds support healthy liver and kidney function and are used in western herbalism as an adrenal tonic and adaptogen.
An adaptogen is a herb that increases your stamina and energy by improving your body’s ability to react to emotional and physical stress. Many well known adaptogens like ginseng, ashwaganda or cordyceps grow in far off lands, are rare or difficult to cultivate or harvest. It is a wonderful thing to feel supported by such a readily available and abundant herb that most of us in the UK, even in urban areas can find somewhere near our home*. Nettle seeds are best taken as a preventative medicine - when you know you are entering a period of increased stress, its time to reach for nettle seed. They can support folk who are exhausted and burnt out, but the dose must be paid attention to closely as too much and the person may experience agitation and over-stimulation, which is the last thing a person who is burnt out needs.
It is thought that the energy and mood-boosting properties of nettle seeds may be linked to the neurotransmitters acetylcholine and serotonin. These neurotransmitters are found in nettle stings and they improve mood, heighten sensory perception, attention span, vigilance and intuition, regulate appetite and sleep and influence learning and memory.
I really encourage you to experiment with nettle seeds. A little goes a long way. I notice that I feel more vital and energized when I take just half a teaspoon of seeds a day. If you take large doses, you may find yourself over-stimulated and unable to sleep, so its important you find your body's own balance with this potent medicine.
To harvest and store nettle seeds:
Gather the seeds when they are plump and green.
Spread out on newspaper or herb drying rack to dry
Once dry, with gloved hands to avoid stings, gently rub the seeds off their stringy stems. You can also rub them through a sieve at this stage to help separate out the seeds from the stringy stems and stings.
Store your seeds in an air-tight, clean glass jar.
Things to make with nettle seeds:
Add to home-baked crackers, biscuits or bread
Toast with sesame seeds, salt and seaweed for a mineral-rich seasoning sprinkle
Add to your morning porridge or smoothie
Grind in a coffee grinder to crush and then make a nettle seed tincture
*When I lived in the city, I had a pot of nettles growing as cut and come again greens that I could harvest most of the year round.