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Muddy Faces

Published on 28.05.20 in Nature

Be Nice to Nettles

Anyone who has had a run-in with a nettle plant and has come off for the worse may shout Why Be Nice to Nettles?

ladybird on a nettle leaf in grass, next to a rock

We have a family nettle story that often gets wheeled out at gatherings:

My middle brother, aged about four-years-old, dressed in shorts and t-shirt (probably towelling shorts as they often were in the 70s), manages to get out the garden gate. My parents lived on a steep road in Old Colwyn in North Wales. He sits on his horse (with wheels), lifts up his feet and starts to head off down the hill, probably a little faster than he intended. At the bottom he hits the kerb and is catapulted into the air. Luckily for him he lands in a garden waste/compost pile which gives him a nice soft landing. Unluckily for him the space was also occupied by many large stinging nettles. Ouch

The Nettle - Urtica dioica - is massively important both historically and today. And, like dandelions in our recent newsletter, they can be incredibly abundant - so they can be used in many educational and recreational ways, always foraged sustainably of course.

Historically nettles were used to make cloth, and making nettle cordage is a great activity to do with your children. Now is a great time to harvest nettles for making cordage, and it's also a good time for nettle recipes, while the leaves are young and juicy.

Nettles are extremely important for wildlife. Ladybirds and many butterflies lay their eggs on stinging nettles. When the caterpillars hatch they feast on the nutritious nettle leaves. Keep an eye out for red admirals, small tortoiseshells and peacock commas.

There are many medicinal uses for nettles, Apparently the Romans rubbed nettles on their arms and legs to help keep themselves warm.

Your nettle ideas - thanks for sharing

Thanks to everyone who shared their nettle ideas with us on social media - seems most of you have wild food on your minds!

Wendy Elsdon on Facebook said:

Nettle pancakes!

Use rubber gloves and pick nettle tops from a "clean" source. Wash them and blanch them in boiling water (they will look like wilted spinach).

Make a pancake mix (eggs, flour, milk).

Add the blanched nettles to the mixture and cook the pancakes. :)

Nettle pakoras!

Mel Evans shared this link to a recipe forNettle Pakoras on the Nature Nurture Sussex site.

"Great with dandelion jam!" she says (you could try our dandelion jam recipe and find out if that is true!)

Nettle soup!

Juliet Robertson of Creative Star Learning kindly shared her own recipe for nettle soup, in a blog she wrote back in 2010 (our version of nettle soup is down below, why not try them both?!)

More nettle things!

Thanks to Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre, who suggested nettle cordage - great minds think alike - see our nettle cordage activity in the Outdoor Hub section below :)

Sal Preston mentioned a nettle crisp recipe, but sadly we were unable to track it down in time. Thanks Sal.

Find out more about nettles

Loads more useful links on the Growing & Gardens / plants & wildflowers LINKS page of our Outdoor Hub.


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101 Uses for Stinging Nettles - Piers M Warren

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Exploring many ways to use nettles - in the garden and kitchen, for their medical and fibrous properties. Packed with practical suggestions, collection & storage, and botanical info.

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Food for Free, Richard Mabey / The Edible City, John Rensten / The Foragers Cookbook, James Wood.

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Nettle cordage

Nettle fibres are really strong and even stronger when made into cordage.

Read More about Nettle cordage

Nettle soup

A super simple and tasty soup. Give it a try!

Read More about Nettle soup


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