20110829

Curse of the Silver Horse Nettle

When we purchased our homestead five years ago there were two types of plants.

1. goat heads (aka puncture vine)
2. silver horse nettle

These are two of the most undesirable weeds in the area and we have worked hard to remove them. This morning I woke up and ripped out the latest infestation of nettles. They are a rhizome so I expect to see them again, but at least I can stop the seed from spreading.

A few people have told me that the fruit of the nettle can produce a vegetarian rennet for cheese making. Has anyone tried this or know of a website with more info? The plant has the look of a evil nightshade so I'm not about to just toss it's fruit into a warm pot of milk.


Curse of the Stinging Nettle #2

7 comments:

Killbox said...

Odd my family and the old medicine woman whom i grew up near never called those nettles, just nightshade, or silver nightshade, or as wikipedia calls it Solanum elaeagnifolium

Ive heard that the foliage is pretty bad on the gi tract, (much like rhubarb and tomato, has large amounts of silica, which will cut up the intestines)

The berries wikpedia says was used by some tribes as rennet, although i too would steer clear. recall folks arguing over if the berries were deadly or not

Yarrow said...

the spines & foliage are neurotoxic. Alan got some in a fresh cut one time and it made him pass out; very unusual.

the rhizome will re-grow from as little as one inch of remaining root, and the rhizomes are often about 6" below the soil. of course it *also* sprouts from seed. hardy! we dig the stuff out with shovels and try to trace the roots and pull 'em all out, when we have time to really get busy on it (when not, i just pull it and get as much root as i can and watch that spot for when it comse back, as it always does).

i've seen that rennet idea, too, though not from any reputable source, or with a recipe for how to use it safely or anything like that. the berries will kill poultry if they eat them, and are bad for livestock, though most ruminants will choose not to eat them if they can help it.

Starsquid said...

Hmm doesn't look like the stinging nettle that I am familiar with.

The plant I know looks vaguely like catnip but the edges of the leaves are pointy not rounded.

Here's the Wikipedia link:

Urtica dioica

If you do have the above variety it's pretty useful.

Still, there's lots of nettle-like plants in the world, "stinging nettle" could be a local name for whatever it is you have.

Mikey Sklar said...

@killbox && @starsquid

I went ahead and changed any reference to "stinging nettle" to "silver horse nettle" to avoid further confusion.

Joseph j7uy5 said...

Solanum elaeagnifolium appears to be correct. I could not find, at leat quickly, a good reference that details the toxicology of this particular plant. I get the impression that it is complex and that not all of the plants are well-characterized. Here is the reference that describes the use as a rennet (uploaded to Google docs). Presumably, this effect is due to the presence of a papain-like enzyme. I agree that it would be unwise to use it, when there are alternatives that are known to be safe. Whether it would make sense to try in a condition of scarcity, well, that would depend upon how desperate you are.

Pinapple and papaya are the usual plant souces for these enzymes. I understand that the root of the pineapple will do, which is important. I don't think you would have much luck growing the fruit here, but you can grow the plants, at least indoors. There are other sources, including mallow, so that could be a locally-viable solution, too.

Eric said...

I've heard of using stinging nettle as a rennet, as well as cardoons, thistle, safflower, fig leaves/bark/juice, lady's bedstraw (curdwort), mallow, and borage. I've collected some of these, but haven't tried any of them yet...

interesting website all about making cardo cheese using cardoons (artichoke relative): http://cynaracardunculus.blogspot.com/

Joel said...

PFAF doesn't list any rennet action, but has some info on its use as medicine (caution!) or insecticide:

Here's another source on vegetable rennets, which mentions Creeping Charlie

There's an episode of No Reservations in which Anthony Bourdain makes cardo cheese at a camp site, along with a bunch of historical re-enacting hobby shepherds. Fun stuff.

Looks like there's much safer stuff you might use. Borage is pretty useful to have around, for example.