Stinging nettles (Urtica) mainly grow wild, but are now also being used in Germany’s gardens because they are becoming increasingly popular as a real superfood. The slightly nutty-tasting seeds in particular are versatile and are used to refine dishes as well as for health purposes. Important details must be observed when collecting wild nettles and harvesting your own propagations.

Suitable nettle species

By the way, if you go looking for nettle seeds, you will only come across four of the 45 species that exist worldwide in this country. In most cases it is the common stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), followed by the small stinging nettle (Urtica urens). The so-called reed nettle (Urtica kioviensis) also occurs in the Havel region. The pill stinging nettle (Urtica pilulifera) is less common, although it can only be used for medicinal purposes. However, all other species do not occur in the Central European climate. As a result, the large stinging nettles are best suited for harvesting the stinging nettle seeds. The other species are either too rare or only have a small number of seeds.

Identify large nettles

Although a stinging nettle is visually familiar to almost everyone, there are some special characteristics between the large stinging nettle and the other available species that allow them to be clearly identified and prevent confusion, especially with the dead nettle. It is also important to recognize the female specimens, since only these have nettle seeds that can be used.

  • Height of growth: up to 150 centimetres, rarely up to three metres
  • Lifespan: perennial
  • Typical stinging hairs on leaves and stems
  • Flower form: Rispen
  • Flower color: inconspicuous in green or brown (depending on the degree of maturity)
  • Male specimens: protruding inflorescence
  • Female specimens: hanging inflorescences
  • Usually grows in large groups
Note: If, despite this identification description, another (stinging) nettle species has been used to harvest nettle seeds, there is no need to fear a health risk. Among them there is only one poisonous species, the Urtica stimulans, which also only occurs in Indonesia.


Stinging nettles, and in particular the Urtica dioica, grows above all on soils with a high nitrogen content, which are mainly found in the following places:

  • In the immediate vicinity of fields fertilized with liquid manure (often on field edges)
  • Overfertilized gardens
  • heaps of rubble
  • Mistansammlungen
Tip: So that the nettle seeds are/remain healthy, care should be taken when harvesting to choose a harvest location where the plants are not exposed to any pollutants, such as would be the case near motorways, for example.

harvest time

Depending on the nettle species, the possible harvest time is as follows:

  • Small nettle: mid-August to early October
  • Reed nettle: late August to mid-October
  • Pill nettle: mid/late August/early September to mid-October – in warmer climes until early November
  • Nettle: mid/late August/early September to mid-October – in warmer climates until early November
Note: The common stinging nettle flowers as early as July, with the seeds initially being greenish and turning brown as they mature. Fully ripe, brown seeds are usually available from October. These are the most nutritious and have a more intense nut aroma, which is why they are ideal for drying.

weather conditions

A day should be chosen for collecting nettle seeds when it is dry and the seeds are not damp from rain or other irrigation. If it rained the evening or the night before, you should wait until the plants have dried off with the air and/or sun, because otherwise the risk of mold is immensely high, especially when drying. A sunny midday or afternoon is ideal.


Utensils needed

  • scissors
  • Gloves (gardening gloves with thickened palms are ideal)
  • plastic bag or carton
  • Medium sieve
  • collection container
  • To dry: newspaper or a sufficiently large container
  • For storage: airtight container


Anyone who has ever come into contact with nettles knows about the burning pain they can cause. For this reason, clothing should be chosen accordingly to prevent:

  • Sturdy shoes
  • Long-sleeved jacket/sweater
  • Pants with long legs
  • socks

Harvest nettle seeds

In order to get as many seeds as possible, the following instructions should be followed when harvesting:

  • Cut off panicles of female stinging nettles
  • Place in the plastic bag/carton
  • Collect panicles until you have the desired amount of seeds
  • Transport carefully (fully ripe seeds usually come loose)
  • At home, shake the panicles in the box/bag upside down (seeds fall out)
  • Stuck seeds can be wiped off with fingers (strip from top to bottom)
  • Fill the collected material into a sieve (separates seeds from unusable plant parts)
  • Dispose of plant residues on compost or process into nettle manure

drying seeds

Brown nettle seeds should be used for drying because the drying time is shorter. They are usually left to air dry. Under no circumstances should you try to speed up the drying process by using a hair dryer, for example, or by storing it on a hot radiator or in direct sunlight. The fast and high heat development would have an unfavorable effect on the valuable ingredients of the nettle. Alternatively, an oven can be useful, provided that the temperature and duration are ideally selected.

Instructions for air drying

  • Place collected seeds on newspaper or in a flat container
  • Seeds may lie on top of each other, but not too thickly
  • Location: bright but not in direct sun, warm
  • Make sure there is enough fresh air, but avoid cold drafts
  • Mix seeds every two days (serves for aeration)
  • Drying time: between five and ten days (depending on the ambient temperature)
  • Finally fill in airtight container or use
Tip: With small rice bags placed between the seeds, the drying time can be shortened and, above all, the risk of mold can be minimized.

Oven drying instructions

  • Preheat to 30 to 40 degrees Celsius
  • Line baking sheet with parchment paper (do not use aluminum paper as it gets too hot and can cause burns)
  • Lay the seeds out on baking paper (not covering them if possible)
  • Put the seeds in the oven
  • Do not close the oven door completely – leave it open a crack
  • Mix seeds several times
  • As soon as they are lightly brown, remove them from the oven immediately (about 15 to 20 minutes)
  • Leave to cool for about 24 hours
  • Fill into an airtight container or use/process immediately


Dried nettle seed can be stored in an airtight container for at least a year if storage conditions are ideal. The optimal storage location is dark, dry and at a temperature between 15 degrees Celsius and 22 degrees Celsius. If it is too cool, there is a risk of moisture developing if the container is not 100 percent airtight. However, if there are enormous temperature fluctuations between cold and warm, condensation can form. If it is too warm, this usually leads to “sweating” in the airtight container. In all cases there is an increased risk of mold growth. Ideal places to store dried nettle seeds include:

  • pantry
  • Unheated storage room
  • Closet in the hallway or bedroom
  • In the kitchen cupboard if there is no attic apartment and extremely hot temperature development in summer

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