The Stinging Nettle
Grasp the Nettle firmly, has always been a saying referring to give it all you have when trying to accomplish a task and you wont fail!
It also works to prevent being stung by this common but much hated plant of our wood’s fields and verges. The Nettle however has a lot more to offer us in terms of help rather than hurt. The Romans who used it to alleviate the bitter cold they felt in our climate introduced it. They would take handfuls of nettles and would purposely flail themselves, the stinging sensation causing them to feel hot. This act however did give the nettle its name Urtica from the Latin meaning to burn. Its common name Nettle comes from the Dutch name for the plant that translates into Needle.
I’m sure there aren’t many who haven’t heard of the culinary uses for Nettle being made into soup or tea but there are many more uses for the plant here are just 3.
- By stripping down the stalks a fine but strong cord can be made just perfect for all manner of garden uses from tying up runner beans and peas to tying off onion stalks.
- Medicinally the Nettle can be dried and ground into a powder which has a coagulating effect on wounds.
- The seeds can be used steeped in boiled water to relieve stress and the juice from the leaves are great for alleviating insect bites.
One thing I am always asked is what is the best thing to put on a Nettle sting? Of course, we all know that the obvious answer is a dock leaf, however this isn’t actually a cure at all and is a placebo effect. In fact, the best I have found is surprisingly the juice of the nettle itself!
The benefits of Nettles for health are immense so much so that all manner of treatments are now on the market-containing Nettle, look for the name ‘Urtica Dioica’ or instead make your own preparations.
One thing to remember though is that as the Nettle gets older it becomes less palatable so either pick the fresh young plants at the base of older or use only the nettle tops no further down than 3 leaves and never ingest a nettle that has come into seed.
As always with all wild plants correct identification of the plant is essential before picking, using or consuming it. Just as important is knowledge of the area you are picking it in to avoid ingesting poisons from weed control sprays. There are laws surrounding the foraging from our wild plants and trees, so it’s a good idea to be aware of these before going on your own wild foraging adventure!
Stinging Nettle (Urtica Dioica)