Super Stinging Nettles
At first glance stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is an unwelcome garden guest. Obviously the sting is pretty unpleasant (especially if you enjoy a barefoot garden wander- ouch for the ankles!) and it does spread enough to be thought of as a ‘weed’ in Perth.
But if you can tame this little plant- confine it to certain parts of your space and learn how to safely harvest it- you’ve got yourself a super nutritious asset.
Uses for Stinging Nettle
- Eat it. Nettles can be used just like spinach in any cooked meal. Or try a nettle pesto and put a real sprain in your step!
- Drink it as a tea. Nettle tea can be made by steeping few leaves in boiled water. Drinking this is said to help with asthma, hay fever, eczema and sore muscles.
- Drink it as an ale. Nettles can be used to brew a naturally fermented alcoholic ale. Find a recipe at https://www.discoverwildlife.com/how-to/make-things/how-to-make-nettle-beer/
- Add it to your compost. Nettles work as an activator in a compost pile, speeding up the breakdown of organic matter. Best to get it in there before seeds have set on the plant though.
- Make a garden fertiliser. Submerge a few plants in a big bucket of water for a few weeks. It’ll get smelly but you’ll end up with a tea that can be diluted and poured over your garden, like you would Seasol.
How to harvest without the ‘ouch’
Just wear gardening gloves to avoid the sting. If you’re planning to eat them just harvest the young growth at the top of the plants. Once the leaves have been cooked they are safe to touch.
A Recipe to get you started
This soup looks a bit like pond sludge but is actually delicious and very nutritious.
For a basic soup boil 450g of potatoes (peeled and cubed) until soft. Steam 200g of fresh nettles and add to the potatoes with one litre of veggie stock. Bring this to the boil then blend it up, and serve with a dash of cream.
Nettles sting with their tiny hairs. If you’ve copped some wash the area with warm soapy water to remove the offending hairs, and use an ice pack or wet cloth for some relief. This is enough for our gardeners, but if you’re experiencing more discomfort this website has some comprehensive advice: Soothing the Sting.