Nettles , or Common
Nettles , are one of the most
useful weeds going. One can use nettles for medicinal purposes , making
soups, beer, tea, cheese , chicken and livestock feed ,
production, enriching compost heaps, it's a fantastic liquid manure ....
The list goes on. So next time you curse it for stinging you rather be
grateful for its usefulness.
Common nettles grow on ditch-banks, and among rubbish, and although
there are around 500 varieties of nettles around the world, it is the
stinging nettle that is of interest here. It
flowers in the month of July in the northern hemisphere. This species
has a square, firm stem, three or four feet high, with long-pointed,
serrated leaves, that come with stings which, on being touched, causes
a burning and painful sensation. In Italy, you can see grandmothers
stooped in fields in spring harvesting young nettle leaves to use in
her cooking later that day, and nettles can even be found on dishes
served in the fanciest of Italian restaurants. People in Europe have
known the value of nettles for centuries and it has been part of their
spring diet because of its excellent cleansing properties.
will quite happily grow on in most gardens, backyards and fields. And
if you see a large field of nettles on your property the soil beneath
will be rich in nitrogen, as the presence of nettles normally indicates
this. So many people want to rid their fields and gardens of nettles,
but why? They have so many benefits!
Eating Stinging Nettles
Picture courtesy of Uwe H. Friese,
Nettles are generally considered as a noxious weed but it has many
benefits and uses .
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Here is a Nettle Soup Recipe
3 oz young nettle leaves
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, diced
3/4 lb. potato, diced small
2 pints chicken stock
1 teaspoon mixed fresh sage, marjoram and basil
2 tablespoons cream
nettle leaves well and drain. Place in a saucepan with a little water.
Cook until tender. This only takes a minute or two. Allow to cool and
then chop up.
Saute the onion and potato in butter over a low heat till golden. Add
more butter if needed. Add the stock.
till cooked, add nettles and other herbs. Simmer again for about 15
minutes and allow to stand in a warm place for a while. Blend in the
milk or cream and serve dotted with butter and grated cheese.
Stinging Nettles and Cheese Making
In the Western Islands of Scotland stinging nettles use to be
a natural rennet for cheese
making. The natural rennet recipe using nettles was prepared
a quart of salt to three pints of a strong decoction of nettles.
5 tablespoonfuls is enough to coagulate a bowl of
Here is an old
recipe for using nettles in cheese:
two pints new milk,
curdle it either by slow heat, or by rennet, lemon juice, fig juice, or
nettles. Turn the curd into a cheese
cloth or butter muslin (coarse canvas will do), previously scalded, tie
and hang up to drain. After three or four hours tie again tighter. In
hours it is fit to eat, but if preferred it can be pressed and turned
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.
The nettles, though being the ingredient which gives Yarg its unique
flavor, were originally used as a preservative. However, this
ingredient is what now delights many, described as having "a delicate,
almost mushroom flavor." As well as the taste of the nettles, an
interesting flavor is added by the mold allowed to grow on the
cheese, which is not harmful.
Drinking Stinging Nettles Nettle cordial
is a soft drink made largely from a refined sugar and
water solution flavoured with the leaves of the nettle. Historically it
has been popular in North Western Europe; however, versions of a nettle
cordial recipe can be traced back to Roman times. It is an aromatic
syrup, and when mixed with sparkling water, is very refreshing.
tea is said to have very good medicinal properties. A tea
young nettle tops is a Devonshire cure for nettlerash which you get
after being stung. However, don't make it too strong, and don't drink
too much of it as it can actually cause the body to come out in an
uses a large
amount of young, green stinging nettles which are boiled up in a
gallon of water, with the juice of two lemons
for a sharp flavour, and a teaspoonful of crushed ginger.
Then, for sweetening purposes, a pound of brown sugar
is mixed in. Then some fresh yeast
from the brewer is to be floated on toast in the liqued when cold, so
ferment it; and it may be afterwards bottled as a specially wholesome
Stinging Nettles for Chickens and Livestock Feed
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,
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!
Stinging Nettle Root for Dyeing
The roots of the Common
Nettle, when boiled, will dye
wool and cotton to a yellow
Stinging Nettle Juice Steel
dipped in the juice of the nettle becomes flexible. Also,
dipped in nettle juice will stop a bleeding nose if applied to the
nostril. Fresh nettle juice, given in doses of from 1 -2
tablespoonfuls, is said to be an old-fashioned remedy for lss of blood,
whether from the nose, the lungs or some other internal organ.
Stinging Nettles for Cloth
But the most valuable part,
is the nettles' fibrous stalk or stem has been used in the past to make
good cloth, similar to
hemp . A coarse kind of durable canvas
was also produced, which was considerably harder than the cloth
from hemp or flax. Making fabric from nettles is not new; fabric woven
of nettle fiber has been found in burial sites dating back
to the Bronze Age.
A very good white
writing paper has also been made using nettles
and nettle seeds were used in the past as a good oil for lamps.
Medicinal Uses for Stinging
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
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
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
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!
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
How to Harvest Stinging Nettles
a fine day to go out nettle hunting. Make sure that you have a good
pair of scissors and wear some gloves to protect your hands and long
trousers to protect your legs. Collect the nettle plants after the
morning dew has burned off. If you are only taking the young shoots,
cut off the last inch of the plant. If you are harvesting the whole
nettle plant cut it off a little above the root. This will allow the
plant to recover over time and produce again.
Drying nettle is
also possible, just as can dry other herbs. Hang upside down in bunches
in a room away from direct sunlight but where there is good air
circulation and no damp. Rub when brittle and store in airtight
containers in a dark cupboard.
If you are harvesting nettle seed these can be dried on trays or pieces
of paper in the sun or near a wood stove.
Nettles and Your Garden
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
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.
Cures for Stinging Nettle
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:
Another cure is putting on calendula
cream which also helps in soothing the pain. As is using aloe vera
although it will relieve the pain, it won't reduce the swelling. You
can also try a paste using bicarbonate of soda.