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Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa

Common name: French Tarragon, True Tarragon

Family: Asteraceae

Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa

Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa

Distribution and habitat: Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa is found natively in a number of areas of the Northern Hemisphere. It is native to soils that have relatively little water retention. It is now cultivated widely in Europe, Asia, and the US.

Description: Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa is perennial herb and the only sub-species from Artemisia dracunculus species cultivated for use of the leaves as an aromatic culinary herb. It is noted for the pungent anise-like flavor and aroma of its leaves.

It is a shrubby perennial which typically grows 45-60cm (18-24 inch) tall, with slender branched stems. The leaves are lanceolate, 2–8cm (0.8-3 inch) long and 2–10mm broad, glossy green, with an entire margin. The flowers are produced in small capitulae 2–4mm diameter, each capitulum containing up to 40 yellow or greenish-yellow florets. Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa, however, seldom produces any flowers. The flowers will be sterile. This plants are reproducing only asexual.  Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa has rhizomatous roots and it readily reproduces from the rhizomes.

Gardening: Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa is the variety generally considered best for the culinary proposes. It is normally purchased as a plant and some care must be taken to ensure that true Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa is purchased. It is a perennial and it normally goes dormant in winter. New growth will start in spring. Cut the remaining dried parts of the plants to the ground in early spring. Periodic light pruning will encourage new growth.
It likes a hot, sunny spot, without excessive watering. This plant is frost and drought tolerant.
It also may be effectively grown in containers or window boxes.

Location: Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa plant prefers full sun positions, but appreciates a sheltered location (afternoon shade) in hot areas. Grow this plant in a well ventilated location.

Soil: Well-drained soil is the number one requisite of a good growing site for Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa plants. Raised beds or ridge culture are particularly desirable in areas of heavy soils and poor natural internal soil drainage. Compost, peat or other organic soil amendments will improve soil aeration and drainage. Please note that adding a small amount of sand may actually make conditions worse in fine-textured, tight soils.
This plant prefers a neutral soil (pH of 6.9). Avoid wet soils.

Irrigation: Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa has average water needs; Water it regularly, but do not overwater it. Irrigation may be necessary to maintain high quality late into the season. Allow soil to dry between thorough waterings.

Fertilising: A fertilizer program similar to a good vegetable garden maintenance level is usually adequate, except in particularly poor soils. Apply fertiliser once every month during the growing season.
A summer mulch to cool the soil and keep the leaves clean may be effective, though winter mulch may keep the crowns too wet and actually encourage winter kill.

Propagation: Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa is never grown from seed as the flowers are sterile, instead it is propagated by root division. Dividing the clumps every 3-4 years will help keep plants robust, but replacement of the plants should be considered if plant vitality declines. Root division can be as simple as digging up the clump and chopping it into quarters with a spade, then replanting these divisions for a 4:1 yield of new plants.

Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa can be also propagated by cuttings. Propagation should then be planned to avoid the natural dormant season and conditions, which tend to stunt or stop lush growth. Examine the plant early in the morning. This is the best time to gather the cuttings. Using a sharp knife, scissors or razor blade, cut healthy stems right below the leaf node. The leaf node is where the leaf emerges from the stem. Each stem should be 10 to 12cm (4 to 6 inch) long. Remove all the lower leaves on the bottom third of the stem, but the top section must have three or four leaves. Place the cut end of the stems in a damp paper towel. This prevent the cuttings from drying out before planting them. Use a 10cm (4 inch) pot for each cutting. Cover the drainage holes at the bottom with small rocks or clay-pot fragments. Fill the pots with well-drained potting soil. Water the soil, moistening it thoroughly. Remove a stem from the paper towel. Dip the cut end in water. Tap the stem to remove the excess water and then dip the wet end in rooting hormone. Tap the stem again to remove the excess rooting hormone.
With the blunt end of a pencil or a dibble, form a hole in the soil. Insert the stem end with rooting hormone into the hole. Gently firm the soil around the stem with the fingers to help hold it upright. Repeat this process for each cutting.
Place the pot in a clear plastic bag, but leave the bag open to allow for air circulation. Find a bright window to place the propagating pots. Do not expose them in direct sunlight.
Every day, check the soil for moisture. The soil needs to be kept moist, but not soggy or the cuttings will rot. Begin watching for new growth after a month. This will be an indication that the cuttings have rooted. Remove the plastic bag. Now they can be transplanted in the garden. Plant them outdoors, only when the temperatures are warm. Space the plants 0.4 to 0.6m (1.5-2 feet) apart.

Dormancy: Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa is a deciduous perennial. It produces beautiful flavoured leaves in Spring to Autumn.

Availability: Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa is are sold as container plant and is sold always as ‘sativa’ cultivar or varieties. To ensure that the plant is truly Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa, do a taste test. The leaves will have an anise flavor and it can make the mouth feel numb.
On the other hand, Artemisia dracunculus sold under the species name without reference to cultivar or variety may be the less pungent Russian tarragon (Artemisia dracunculoides), which is considered by most cooks to be significantly inferior for culinary use. The leaves will still taste anise flavor, but it will be very mild and it would not have as big a numbing effect.
Seeds are invariably those of Russian tarragon as Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa is sterile.
Spanish, winter, Texas and Mexican tarragon are all the same plant – Tagetes lucida. This plant is a good tasting substitute for Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa.
One plant will be enough for home uses.

Problems: Susceptible to root rot in moist soils, particularly poorly drained ones.

It does not like acid, wet soil, which can cause root rot and mildew.

Because it is a cool-growing plant when it is grown in warm climates zones will often lead to disappointing results. There are lots of production issues and dormancy related problems meaning that Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa needs some special conditions to survive: bright light, cooler conditions, and avoid over fertilization for best results.

Harvesting: There should be a moderate harvest the first summer and a full harvest in the second, third and possibly fourth summers. A few fresh leaves are harvested by snipping with a scissors. Begin harvest of about 1/3 of shoot growth starting as soon as plants have fully expanded leaves in mid spring. Cut material should be cleaned, if necessary and then packaged immediately to slow wilting, which begins as soon as tips are severed from the plant. The remainder of the plant will be reinvigorated by the harvest and will branch and regrow to provide multiple harvests throughout the season. Plants should be cut back frequently during the growing season to keep fresh new growth coming. As dormancy begins in early fall, harvest should stop, mainly because quality rapidly deteriorates. It is best not to shear off the unsightly brown tops in the fall, as this may lower plant hardiness through the winter.

Companion plants: Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa grows well together with other culinary herbs such as Salvia officinalis (Sage), Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary), Thymus vulgaris (Thyme).

Uses: Fresh leaves may be harvested at any time for cooking. Leaves may also be dried for later use by cutting the leafy stems in mid-summer and hanging them in bunches in a cool, dry location. Dried leaves should then be stored in airtight containers. However, this herb is of much higher quality in the fresh state than when dried. It is best used fresh, however, it can be frozen or preserved in vinegar.

Very desirable herb garden addition also looks great in any bed, border or container. Use fresh or dry leaves to season soups, sauces, and vinegars.

Height: 1.50 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 1.50 to 2.00 feet
Hardiness zone: 5a-8b

 



Culinary Herbs , ,

Levisticum officinale

Common name: Lovage, Old English Lovage, Italian Lovage, Cornish Lovage, Love Parsley, Mountain Celery, Maggie Plant, Garden Lovage, Bladder Seed, Sea Parsley

Family: Apiaceae

Synonymous: Hipposelinum levisticum
Levisticum levesticum
Levisticum paludapifolium
Ligusticum levisticum
Selinum levisticum

Levisticum officinale

Levisticum officinale

Distribution and habitat: Levisticum officinale is a native of the Mediterranean region, growing wild in the mountainous districts of the south of France, in northern Greece and in the Balkans. It has been long cultivated in Europe, the leaves being used as a herb, the roots as a vegetable, and the seeds as a spice, especially in southern European cuisine. This plant is naturalised throughout North America.

Description: Levisticum officinale is an erect, herbaceous, perennial plant growing to 1.8–2.5m (6-8 feet) tall, with a basal rosette of leaves and stems with further leaves, the flowers being produced in umbels at the top of the stems. The stems and leaves are shiny glabrous green to yellow-green and smell of lime when crushed. The larger basal leaves are up to 70cm (28 inch) long, tripinnate, with broad triangular to rhomboidal, acutely pointed leaflets with a few marginal teeth; the stem leaves are smaller, and less divided with few leaflets. The flowers are yellow to greenish-yellow, 2–3mm diameter, produced in globose umbels up to 10–15cm (4-6 inch) diameter; it flower is in late spring. The fruit is a dry two-parted schizocarp 4–7mm long, mature in autumn.

The flowers are very attractive to bees and also draw insect predators such as hoverflies into the garden.

Gardening: Levisticum officinale is of easy culture. It is a hardy perennial that survives winter even in very cold climates. The plant dies right back in the winter. The unsightly collapsed stems can be cut down to ground level. Actually, Levisticum officinale does do better in colder areas where there is a period of dormancy than in warmer zones.
It will reach its mature size in about three years. If the plant is cut back to the ground during the growing season it will produce a new flush of young leaves. If the weather is dry at this time, it will be necessary to water the plants in order to encourage fresh growth.

One plant is usually sufficient for domestic use, but it is a good idea to start a new plant every few years.
Also, Levisticum officinale will grow well in a large, deep pot.

Lovage plants are slow to develop and can take a year or more to reach a reasonable size. They will not flower until their second year and if struggling in their location may take as long as four years to flower. Clip off the flowers heads as they appear if bushy growth is wanted.

Location: Levisticum officinale prefers sunny position, though it tolerates some shade – semi-shade (light woodland). It likes full sun in cool climates or partial shade where summers are very hot. Optimal temperature range for this plant is 20-30°C.

Soil: Rich moist, but well-drained soil is required for growing Levisticum officinale. It is suitable for light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. It will grow fairly well on most soils provided: acid, neutral or basic (alkaline) soils. Adding organic material to the soil before planting is advised to ensure a strong healthy plant.
Plant these plants in field with distance between them to encourage their good development: in-row spacing 20-60cm (8-24 inch) and between row spacing 45-60cm (18-24 inch).

Irrigation: Levisticum officinale prefers fairly moist soil. Water it regularly, but do not overwater.
It does need watering from a soaker hose or trickle irrigation in areas where rainfall is sporadic.

Fertilising: Top-dress the soil around the dormant plant with rich compost each winter.

Propagation: Levisticum officinale propagation is by division of roots or by seeds.
Since Levisticum officinale is a perennial plant, the roots may be dug at the end of the second or third year. Numerous off-sets from these roots may be found which may be reset to renew the planting.
If plants become too large they can be divided in the fall or early spring.
Plants can begin to loose their vigor after six or more years so digging them up and dividing and replanting the larger roots will help them remain strong and energetic.

Seed – sow spring or early autumn in a cold frame. The seed can be slow to germinate so it is probably best sown as soon as it is ripe. Germination takes usually about 10 to 14 days, dependent on temperature. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out into their permanent positions in the summer.

Problems: Potential insect pests include tarnished plant bug, celery worm and leaf miner.
Leaves may be attacked by leaf miners. Aphids are attracted to the flowers and yellowish, gummy, resinous juice. This may then attract ants which feed on the aphid residue.
The large fleshy roots may be attacked underground if there are moles and voles in the area. Moles often dig tunnels near plants which give voles access and they will then eat the roots out from beneath the plant.
Treatments:
Remove affected leaves; pull out severely infested plants and throw them away before the problem spreads.
Dislodge small infestations with a spray from the hose; larger insect pests may be hand-picked and destroyed.

Potential disease problems include early blight, late blight and leaf spots.
Treatment: For early blight apply Trichoderma harzianum to the soil just before planting. Promote good air circulation. For early blight, apply potassium bicarbonate (baking soda) sprays starting 2 weeks before the time of year when symptoms would normally first appear. Dispose of infected plants and when possible, use a 3-year rotation.
For late blight, keep foliage dry as much as possible, and check frequently for symptoms whenever the weather is wet. Preventive sprays of compost tea or Bacillus subtilis may help prevent the disease. Immediately remove and destroy plants infected with late blight; prune off cankered shoots of shrubs. After harvest, remove and destroy all plant debris that may be infected.
Mulch to prevent dirt and spores from being splashed up onto plants. Bicarbonate sprays can be very helpful in preventing leaf spot diseases.

Companion plants: Levisticum officinale is a good companion plant, improving the health and flavour of other plants growing nearby. It will attracts ichneumon wasps, which parasitize the larvae of herbivorous insects. A large plant will provide good habitat for ground beetles.
Avoid planting near Rheum rhabarbarum (Rhubarb).

Culinary uses: The leaves of Levisticum officinale can be used in salads or to make soup or season broths and the roots can be eaten as a vegetable or grated for use in salads. Its flavor and smell is like parsley and celery combined with a hint of aniseed a few spices. This herb is in the same family as parsley and celery, making it an ideal replacement for either plant in a recipe. Go easy at first because it is stronger than both, though the flavour mellows a bit in cooking. Toss the lively young leaves in salads, risottos and rice dishes or tuck them into the cavity of a chicken or fish before roasting. Finely shredded, they are a great addition to soups, stews, mash or scrambled eggs; the stems can be used steamed, the roots can be braised  and the seeds can be used in biscuits and bread.
Peel the large tap roots and use them in stews or cook them.
The seeds can be used as a spice, similar to fennel seeds.

The tea made from the dried leaves of Levisticum officinale can be applied to wounds as an antiseptic or drunk, having a very agreeable aroma, to stimulate digestion.

Harvest: Pick young Levisticum officinale leaves as they have the best taste and texture, avoiding the central flower stem and the hollow main stems before flowering. Use the leaves fresh, dry or freeze them for later use. Levisticum officinale leaves can be picked within 6 to 8 weeks from sowing until the first sharp frosts.
Only harvest roots from large plants. The roots of 2- or 3-year-old plants are dug in autumn, sliced and dried. The dried root retain their aroma and are used medicinally.
Harvest seeds when ripe, once they start to turn brown. Allow seedheads to dry on plants. Place a bag over the seedheads to capture ripening seed. When the seedheads are completely dried, remove and collect seeds from the bag.

Garden uses: Levisticum officinale is a herb garden. Also it has ornamental value and good height for a back corner of the border or for naturalized areas or wild gardens. Since it grows so tall it is best planted on the northern side of any garden especially a herb garden so that it does not shade out any of the other plants.

Hardiness zone: 3a – 7b

Levisticum officinaleLevisticum officinale - flowerLevisticum officinale - seed



Culinary Herbs, Garden Plants , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Laurus nobilis

Common name: Bay Laurel, Sweet Bay, Bay Tree, True Laurel, Grecian Laurel, Laurel Tree, Laurel

Family: Lauraceae

Laurus nobilis

Laurus nobilis

Distribution and habitat: Laurus nobilis is native to the Mediterranean region. It can vary greatly in size and height, sometimes reaching 10–18m (33–59 feet) tall.

Description: Laurus nobilis is an aromatic evergreen tree or large shrub with a broad base with many stems. The stems bear dense, pointed, elliptical leaves, rather leathery in texture, bright green when young and darker green when mature. The leaves are 6–12cm (2.5-5 inch) long and 2–4cm (0.8-1.6 inch) broad with smooth margins; on some leaves the margin undulates. The aroma of the leaves is not free; leaves have to be rubbed to release it.
The Laurus nobilis is dioecious (unisexual), with male and female flowers on separate plants. Each flower is pale yellow-green, about 1cm (0.4 inch) diameter, and they are borne in pairs beside a leaf. The fruit is a small, shiny black berry about 1cm (0.4 inch) long. Potted grown specimens seldom flower and fruit.

Houseplant care: Laurus nobilis thrives in containers, making an excellent houseplant. It can be turned into topiary (shrubs cut or trained into specified shapes) specimens which can be shaped into pyramid, ball or lollipop standards and some have ornately plaited or spirally trained stems.
Topiary-trained Laurus nobilis are trimmed with secateurs during summer to encourage a dense habit and to maintain a balanced shape. Prune new shoots to a bud facing in the direction of the desired growth.
Shrubs can be trimmed into shape by simply cutting back to a lower leaf or bud in spring or summer.

Remove any dried foliage by lightly pruning. Mature plants can be hard pruned, but should be considered that it is a slow grower and will take long to recover.

During the warm seasons, Laurus nobilis can be moved outdoors, especially if watered regularly and positioned in a sheltered spot.

Light: Give Laurus nobilis bright filtered light all years long.

When moving the plant outside in warmer weather, it must be acclimated to the sun or the leaves will burn.

Temperature: Laurus nobilis is growing well in normal room temperature. It can withstand temperatures down to -5°C (23°F), but frost and cold winter winds can damage the foliage. Take the plant indoors if temperatures fall below -5°C(23°F).

Watering: Water regularly but sparingly during growing season. Do not overwater. Water less during winter, only to make sure the root ball does not dry out.
Mature plants will tolerate some degree of negligence, but do not let it sit for long periods without water.

Feeding: Use a standard liquid feed every two weeks from mid-spring to late summer. Do not feed the shrub during the winter period and avoid high concentrations of fertiliser.

Potting and repotting: Move Laurus nobilis in one size larger pot every two years in spring. Use a soil-based potting mixture with extra grit added to improve stability and drainage. Moved up the plant as it grows to the largest pot size that is convenient and thereafter maintained at that size by pruning the rootball and top pruning. Lift the plant out of its pot and tease off a third of the roots before adding fresh potting mixture and checking drainage. Remove and replace the top 5cm (2 inch) of compost from the top of the container.

Garden Culture: Laurus nobilis is a slow growing evergreen tall shrub that if left untrimmed and grown in the ground (where the climate allows) will eventually grow into a medium sized tree. Prune it to shape when required. Plants may suffer cold or wind damage to the current season’s growth, which can be pruned out in the spring

Position: A sunny to partly shaded exposure is ideal for Laurus nobilis.
The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

Soil: Laurus nobilis is not too particular about the soil. However, a well-drained soil is important.

Plant it at the same depth as it was in its original pot. Bay roots are very shallow. Use caution when weeding or cultivating around at the base of the tree.

Irrigation: Follow a regular watering schedule during the first growing season to establish a deep, extensive root system. Water it at least once a week or enough to keep the soil consistently moist but not soggy. Increase watering to twice per week during extremely hot temperatures or in drought-like conditions. Watering can be reduced once established.

Laurus nobilis is drought tolerant, but appreciates regular deep watering. Always allow the soil to dry out between waterings, so the roots do not rot.

Fertilising: For best results fertilise with a long term slow release fertiliser in early Spring.

Companion plants: The versatile habit of Laurus nobilis allows pairing it with a variety of Mediterranean plants. Grow it along with other fragrant, culinary herbs such as Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary), Lavandula species (Lavender) and Origanum vulgare (Oregano). Adding other trees which produce edibles fruits like Punica granatum (Pomegranate), Citrus species (Citrus) and Olea europaea (Olive) will turn this garden in true kitchen garden.

Propagation: Laurus nobilis can be propagated from seed collected in the autumn. However, male and female plants must be grown to obtain seed. Remove the fleshy outer casing and sow as soon as possible. If seed has dried or is bought, soak in warm water for 24 hours before sowing. Seed may take six months to one year to germinate. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots once they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first year.

Also Laurus nobilis can be propagated by taking semi-ripe cuttings in late summer. Wood that is just beginning to harden makes the best cuttings, but even these take up to three months to root under the best conditions. Cut 10-12cm (4-4.5 inch) of mature side shoot with heel. Pinch off the leaves from the bottom of the cutting. Dip the cut end of the cutting into water and then into the rooting hormone until the bottom 3cm  (1 inch) of the cutting is coated in the powder. Pot the cutting into a 8cm (3 inch) pot size filled with moistened equal parts mixture of peat moss and sand or perlite. Make a hole in the middle of the pot and insert the cutting 3cm (1 inch) below the leaves, then press the potting mixture around the cutting. Seal the pot into a plastic bag or propagating case and place it in indirect sunlight. New growth indicate that the rooting has occurred. At this moment remove the bag and water the cuttings enough to keep the potting mixture just moist.
When the new plant is well established – in about six months – move it into one pot size larger containing the same potting mixture used for adult plant. Thereafter treat it in same way as a mature Laurus nobilis.

Another propagating method is by layering the plant. Layering is often successful, but slower than cuttings and require extensive gardening skills.

Problems:
Plants in containers are prone to leaf spots caused by waterlogged roots or wet weather conditions. This condition is usually indicating that the compost has become old and tired.
Treatment: Repot the shrub in spring into fresh, well-drained potting mixture.

Nutrient deficiency can cause leaves yellowing for in container-grown plants but is more commonly caused by waterlogged compost or cold weather damage. Older leaves will shed naturally in low numbers.
Treatment: Feed the plant and reduce watering during the cold season. Repot the shrub in spring into fresh recommended potting mixture if neccessary.

During harsh winters, Laurus nobilis may developed cracking and peeling bark, especially on the lower main stems. The cause is the winter cold and possibly other stress factors such as fluctuating soil moisture levels. Though the damage looks alarming it appears to be invariably fatal. If the rest of the plant is growing normally or recovering from winter damage (recovery should be apparent by midsummer if it is to happen) no action is needed.
Treatment: However, if the growth above the damaged area is dead, remove the dead parts cutting to healthy wood or to near soil level. Recovery from lower down or soil level often occurs.

Laurus nobilis are subject to scale insects.
Treatment: It can be treated with horticultural oil or wipe them away with a cotton swab or cotton ball dipped into rubbing alcohol.

Laurus nobilis can be susceptible to powdery mildew and black mold. These tend to grow on the leaves and branches of trees that do not get enough sunlight or that accumulate moisture on their leaves that does not evaporate quickly during the day.
Treatment: For anthracnose, mold and mildew, remove all affected foliage using sterile pruning. Dispose of all plant debris removed from the plant and that is lying under the plant. In most cases, this should enable the plant to contain the spread of infection naturally. Continue to monitor the plant for signs of further infection and removed impacted foliage as necessary.

Uses: Laurus nobilis makes a popular container plant being grown as a shrub or even topiary specimen.

It is an effective slow growing hedging or screening plant that can be kept clipped from 1-4m (3-13 feet) or left to grow into a medium sized tree. Its dark green leaves will provide an ideal backdrop for other plants. Also it is an excellent plant for topiary and is well suited to formal gardens. Its dried leaves are used in cooking and so it is an essential plant in any kitchen garden.

Culinary, the leaf is added at the beginning of cooking soups and stews and slowly imparts a deep, rich flavor. The leaf is left whole so it can be retrieved before serving the dish. To harvest leaves from a privately owned tree, cut off small branch with the desired number of leaves attached. Allow the entire branch to dry out. Remove the leaves from the branch and store them in a container to maintain the flavour of the leaf.

Height: 15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)
Hardiness zone: 8a – 11

Laurus nobilis - flowersLaurus nobilis - fruitsLaurus nobilis Laurus nobilisLaurus nobilisLaurus nobilis



Culinary Herbs, Foliage Plants, Indoor Plants, Shrubs , , , , , , ,

Urtica dioica

Common name: Stinging Nettle

Synonyms: Urtica galeopsifolia
Family: Urticaceae

Distribution: Urtica dioica is widespread through Europe and North America, and also occurs in North Africa and parts of Asia. There are naturalised populations in several other parts of the world.

Urtica dioica

Urtica dioica

Description: This species is a herbaceous perennial, which grows as an upright plant to 1.2 m (4ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in) at a fast rate in moist, shady spots, in flood plains, woodlands and along streams and river banks. The soft, serrated leaves are opposite each other in pairs on the stem. The leaves and the rest of the plant are coated in stinging and non-stinging hairs. The plant spreads by underground roots which are noticeably yellow. The tiny greenish-white flowers, each with four petals, are densely clustered on elongated inflorescences towards the top of the stem. Urtica dioica is divided into at least five subspecies, each of which is slightly different.

The Stinging nettle is most notably recognised, as its name suggests, for inflicting its painful sting when brushed by one’s bare skin. However this wild herb has many medicinal and culinary uses (food, medicine, textiles, plant feed, cosmetics), and has been used by many traditional cultures for hundreds of years.

Care: Prefers a soil rich in phosphates and nitrogen. Plants must be grown in a deep rich soil if good quality fibre is required. Especially when growing in rich soils, the plant can spread vigorously and is very difficult to eradicate. It is said that cutting the plant down three times a year for three years will kill it. It is a good companion plant to grow in the orchard and amongst soft fruit. It seems to improve the health of soft fruit that grows nearby and also to protect the fruit from birds. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.

Light: Urtica dioica grows in sunny and shady habitats.

Soil: WUrtica dioica prefers a rich soil and avoiding acid soils.

Propagation: This species can be propagated by seed or by rhizome (that is an underground stem that grows horizontally) division. Abundant seed is produced and can be collected in late autumn, before frost causes seed-fall. The seed does not pass through a dormant stage and can germinate just days after maturity. Open ground is preferred for germination. Rhizome division can be carried out from spring through to late summer.

Sow Urtica dioica seeds in spring in a cold frame, only just covering the seed. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle, and plant them out in the summer. Division succeeds at almost any time in the growing season. Very easy, plant them straight out into their permanent positions.

As a pot herb, the young leaves of Stinging nettle are very nutritious and easily digestible with high levels of vitamins and minerals. Cooked or thoroughly dried leaves are safe to eat as these processes neutralises the sting. They are a popular substitute to spinach, great addition also to soups, omelettes, and even a topping to pizza. Juicing the leaves is also a popular form of tonic and may even be applied to cuts to reduce bleeding.

The Stinging nettle in nature is a herbaceous perennial dieing down to ground level in winter. It spreads by a bright yellow rhizomatous and stoloniferous root system and may need to be controlled with a root barrier. Stinging nettle is easy to grow in any moist fertile soil, in full sun to semi-shade. Young leaves and shoots are best harvested in spring and autumn. Avoid harvesting old leaves after flowering as these become unpalatable.

Hardiness zone: 3a-10b

 



Culinary Herbs ,