Most people know a spot where nettles are growing wild, but few people actually use them. Nettles are an amazing example of one of those plants we call a weed or a pest, but that has many uses!
Nettles can be cooked and eaten – just like spinach the leaves are a great source of vitamin C. You can steam, stir-fry or boil nettles in place of other leafy veg in many of your favourite dishes, or try the nettle recipes below.
Nettles also make a lovely relaxing tea and are considered a ‘cleansing’ herb. To make nettle tea, simply gather a few nettle tops, wash well and pop into your teapot. Cover with boiling water and brew for five minutes. Pour through a tea strainer and voila – DIY herbal tea!
Now (early spring) is the perfect time to pick nettles, when they’re young and green. Wear gloves to protect yourself from stings, and take just the tenderest top leaves. Use scissors to snip neatly and allow the plant to re-grow.
Once the nettles have been picked, they will gradually lose their ability to sting, and when they are cooked they won’t sting at all.
Nettle cordial recipe:
1. Pick 100g of nettle tops and wash them (a salad spinner is ideal.)
2. Dissolve 500g sugar in 500ml boiling water by stirring over a very gentle heat (don’t bring it to the boil).
3. Add the nettles, stir in well, cover, and leave for a week.
Stir the mixture every day.
4. After a week, sterilise a glass bottle or jar. Strain your mixture into the bottle/jar and store in the fridge.
Your cordial will last for about a month! Dilute roughly 1 part cordial to 4 parts water.