Its young tops may be boiled during the spring and summer, and eaten as a substitute for greens. However, in late summer and autumn they are not good to eat as the leaves are not tender at this stage. In the spring take young nettle tops and cut finely.
They are extremely nourishing, but don't eat too many as it acts as a mild laxative. Stinging Nettles have a flavor similar to spinach when cooked and is rich in vitamins A, C, D, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium.
Instead of using salt and pepper in your cooking you can substitute these seasonings with nettle. Small quantities of dried nettle can be used to flavor most dishes. Because of the natural salts and minerals in nettle they are an invaluable seasoning for diabetics and people on a salt-free diet.
By soaking stinging nettles in water or by cooking them will remove the stinging chemicals from the plant, which allows them to be handled and eaten without incidence of stinging. The sting of the nettle is also removed when the plant is dried. You can eat nettles raw when the plants are very young and appear in the spring. Add a dressing of olive oil (2 tablespoons) and some lemon juice (1 tablespoon). You can also add them to lettuce, or with dandelion leaves and sorrel as a spring salad, or just on their own.
You can improve the nettles by serving them with some melted butter, or by making a thick white sauce as you would for creamed spinach. Nettles can be used in a variety of recipes, such as soups, polenta and pesto. Nettle soup is a common use of the plant, particularly in Northern and Eastern Europe.
In the Western Islands of Scotland stinging nettles use to be used as a natural rennet for cheese making. The natural rennet recipe using nettles was prepared by adding a quart of salt to three pints of a strong decoction of nettles. 5 tablespoonfuls is enough to coagulate a bowl of milk.
Here is an old rennet recipe for using nettles in cheese:
Take two pints new milk, curdle it either by slow heat, or by rennet, lemon juice, fig juice, or bruised nettles. Turn the curd into a cheese cloth or butter muslin (coarse canvas will do), previously scalded, tie loosely and hang up to drain. After three or four hours tie again tighter. In twelve hours it is fit to eat, but if preferred it can be pressed and turned every day till as firm as ordinary cheese.Yarg is a semi-hard cow's milk cheese made in Cornwall, United Kingdom from the milk of Friesian cows. Before being left to mature, this cheese is carefully wrapped in nettle leaves to form an edible, though moldy, rind.
Nettle leaves are excellent for feeding poultry; and especially in the winter. When boiled and eaten the stinging nettles promote the laying of eggs right throughout the winter. If horses, sheep, goats, cows, and pigs are given nettles fresh they won't eat them, although donkeys and asses love them. When nettles are dried they are eaten by cows resulting in an excellent food that helps to increase the quantity and quality of their milk. It also makes their coats shine.Sometime back I came across instructions on how to get a capon to look after chickens using nettles. I have never tried it, so I cannot tell you whether it works or not! Perhaps some of you have, and will let us know!
Apparently capons can easily be taught to clutch a fresh brood of chickens: First, the fowl is tamed so that it will feed from your hand. As evening approaches pluck some feathers from his breast and rub the bare skin with some nettles, placing the chickens beneath him. This is repeated two or three nights in succession, till the capon takes to his brood. When one brood is grown up, another nearly hatched may be placed under him in the same way and he will apparently make a jolly good substitute for a hen!
In a medicinal view, the whole plant, and particularly the root, is said to be a diuretic.
A leaf, if placed on the tongue, and pressed against the roof of the mouth, is said to be helpful in stopping bleeding of the nose.
Nettle is used in homemade cosmetics - hair shampoos to control dandruff and is said to make hair more glossy, which is why some farmers include a handful of nettles with cattle feed. It is also thought nettles can ease eczema.
Arthritic joints were sometimes treated by whipping the joint with a branch of stinging nettles. The theory was that it stimulated the adrenals and thus reduced swelling and pain in the joint. A 2000 controlled study supports the effectiveness of this treatment. (Randall C, Randall H, Dobbs F, Hutton C, Sanders H (2000 Jun)). I cannot say that I have tried this method myself, but I can say that I received fantastic relief from drinking rosehip tea on a daily basis - but I digress!If you plant the stinging nettle plant anywhere near places where frogs frequent, you will soon chase the frogs away. For some reason they do not like stinging nettles at all and will soon find another home to croak from.
Because nettles are high in nitrogen and therefore are excellent, either for your compost heap after they have been pulled up, or as a liquid nitrogen fertilizer for your garden and vegetables. Nettles don't just add nitrogen to your compost heap, but they actually accelerated the breakdown of your compost heap.To make the liquid manure, you can fill up a bucket of nettles, fill the rest up with water and allow to steep for a couple of weeks until the water is a browny color. Now you can take it an use it on the garden, but you have to dilute it 1:10.
I suppose one couldn't end this article without telling you how to cure a nettle sting. If you have ever been stung by nettles you will know that unless you find something to ease the pain, it will hurt for days. The first time I was stung was in the UK. Luckily my savvy husband locked around for a dock leaf and he rubbed the juice of that over the sting - and it worked. Docks and stinging nettles tend to live together in the same habitat, which is rather convenient for those of us who get stung.
If you don't know what a dock plant looks like here is a picture:
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