Nettles, specifically stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), are flowering plants growing in many places around the world - North America, Europe, Northern Africa, and Asia. It has been introduced to other areas. The leaves start wide at their base and taper down to a point, with deeply serrated margins. The flowers are small and grow on inflorescences at the end of the stem. They are brown, green, and purple shades.
Nettles are widely known for their defense mechanism. The stems and leaves are covered in small hairs called 'trichomes'. These hairs contain various inflammatory chemicals such as histamine which are injected into the skin of creatures disturbing the plant. It causes a localized, itchy rash.
Nettle is also known for its bast fibers. These are special fibers that support the phloem inside some plant species. Bast fibers have a special structure which makes them more flexible than other fibers (such as those from animals) which can be useful for textile production.
Book 4 demonstrates nettle being used for "Homemade Nettle Champagne" and indeed in real life nettle has been used in fermented alcoholic beverages such as ale. It has been used for much more, and has a high nutritional content. Seeds, shoots, and younger leaves are most often eaten. They can be cooked like spinach in a variety of ways or even eaten raw. One recipe purported to be eaten by historic Vikings is Nässelsoppa, or Nettle soup. Nettles were one of the first edible greens to appear after a long Winter. Nettle can be fed to chickens to darken their egg yolks. It can also be dried and used as fodder for Cattle.
Nettle has also been used, and still is used, for a variety of medicinal purposes in a wide variety of cultures. Its stinging properties have been used to treat arthritis. It has also been used to treat kidney, gastrointestinal, and urinary tract issues; this is usually taken as a tea.
Another major use of nettle which the Vikings utilized is as a textile. After resting, fibers can be spun and used for anything from a soft cloth to ropes and fishing nets. The Vikings even continued to produce nettle textiles, while growing other crops such as Flax and hemp for textiles. The plant can also be used as a dye, producing a yellow to greenish-yellow color depending on the part of the plant used.
Nettle appears as a drink - Homemade Nettle Champagne - at the tables of the Hysteric Tribe feast on Freya's day Eve. Toothless drinks some to wash down his meal eating everything on the table. Later, the nettle champagne proves flammable and contributes to a huge fire in the Hysteric Great Hall.
- Silfrahárr, Gunnvôr. (Last Updated - September 8, 2018)Viking Foods. The Viking Answer Lady.
- Bergfjord, C., Mannering, U., Frei, K. M., Gleba, M., Scharff, A. B., Skals, I., Heinemeier, J., Nosch, M. L., & Holst, B. (28 September 2012). Nettle as a distinct Bronze Age textile plant Scientific Reports, Article number: 664