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Find out more about nettles - how to benefit from them and how to get rid of them
16:12, 13th Apr 2012

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Find out more about nettles - how to benefit from them and how to get rid of them


foraging | grow your own

Stinging nettles

Stinging nettles are found everywhere in the British countryside, and are often an unwanted invader in gardens and allotments. They are pretty easy to remove if desired, but nettles can also be used to make soup, tea, and nettle beer, and contain both vitamin A and C, iron, calcium, magnesium, as well as providing many medical benefits. They are also rich in nitrogen and minerals and act as an excellent organic accelerator for compost, but the roots should be burnt rather than composted.

Harvesting and Using Nettles

The tops of young nettles

Pick only the tops from young small nettle plants, as they become bitter with age. Use scissors and wear a pair of gloves unless you want to be stung. Wearing washing up gloves wash the harvested nettles well to remove all dirt and insects.

Once nettles have been boiled, they no longer sting. To make nettle tea simply put the nettles in a pot and completely cover with water. Boil the water until the water starts to turn green. The longer you boil the nettles the stronger the final tea will be. When you are happy with the taste, remove the nettles and add them to your compost. You can add sugar to sweeten up the brew, and a slice or two of lemon enhances the flavour (as well as changing the colour of the tea to bright pink!).

Nettle leaves can also be prepared and eaten in exactly the same way as spinach. Just boil them for a few minutes until they have wilted, and season to your own taste.

Nettle Soup

A delicious nettle soup can be made with your harvest - but don't use the thicker stalks as they will be bitter. Sweat chopped onions in butter or oil and add crushed garlic, carrots, and celery. Add vegetable or chicken stock and bring to the boil before dropping in your nettles. Bring the mixture to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes, before putting it through a blender. If you would like a thicker soup then add some cooked rice or boiled potatoes to the soup before blending.

Dried nettle stalks make an excellent alternative to hay, and are good food for many farm animals and even rabbits.

Dealing with Nettle Stings

Rash caused by stinging nettles

The toothed leaves are covered with short hairs. When you brush past them, these give a sting which results in an itchy rash which can last for a few hours or longer. The worst thing you can do is scratch the rash since this only makes it worse. Instead either rub the rash with a dock leaf - often found near to patches of nettles, apply a soothing lotion, or wash the stung area well.

Getting Rid of Nettles

While nettles can be delicious and one of the more nutritional weeds, most people do not want nettles growing throughout their vegetable patch or garden.

Patch of nettles

As a perennial weed which grows an extensive root system, they can be difficult to remove totally. However, cutting the tops from nettles prevents them from flowering and seeding, and regular hoeing of small nettle plants during periods of dry weather will in time destroy them. If you have only a small patch of nettles to remove, then you can dig up the roots (being careful not to leave any roots underground), and burn them.

Article Published: 16:12, 13th Apr 2012

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