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Nettles are often regarded as a gardeners worst nightmare due to the fact that they are quite prolific and will grow on any kind of disturbed land. A few years ago I dedicated a section of my garden as a 'wildlife corner' and I leave this area to grow wild. In one area of my wildlife garden a patch of stinging nettles grow. At first I was reluctant to leave them there because they can give you a bit of a fierce sting if you catch their hairy stinging hairs on your skin. However, I was persuaded by wildlife experts that these nettles would be a haven for certain insects.
Although there are several varieties of nettle I can only review the Stinging nettle since that's what I have growing in my garden. These are tall growing plants with soft jagged leaves which are covered in prickly, rigid hairs. The hairs are also on the stem and root. The nettles have long connecting roots which branch off from other plants. They tend to start developing into seedlings quite early in the year. I find it best to manage my patch when the seedlings are tiny and can be hoed more easily. However, I often need to dig down into the earth and sever the spreading roots to keep the patch small.
These nettles will grow quite tall, especially when in a sunny position. I was told it is actually best to grow them in a full sun position if aiming to attract insects. They also become quite large and will overshadow any other plant growing around them.
I've discovered these plants are particularly attractive to Peacock, Comma, Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies all of whom rely on nettles to feed their larvae. My nettles often appear ragged and half eaten since the leaves provide vital food for the caterpillars.
I'm very pleased to attract butterflies into the garden but the drawback of having nettles is the fact that you basically have to avoid the area where they grow since they do give a painful sting if you graze them. They do also require some tending if you don't want them to get out of control. However, for me, being able to provide a beneficial plant for butterflies is worth any effort I have to take to maintain these. I would recommend growing a small patch if you are interested in wildlife gardening. I have also learned that it's easy to grow a few in pots if you wish to keep them under greater control.
The humble nettle always has a bad review so I thought I would write a positive one about this stingy little plant that isn't all bad.
I always keep a patch of these in my garden every year as firstly they look really pretty when they flower with little white flowers at the very tip. They have beautiful deep green leaves and they only sting if you touch the leaves otherwise they are very versatile and used for many good things in life.
I often drink nettle tea due to its health benefits as it contains so many vitamins and minerals. It is packed with vitamins B-1, B-2, B-3, B-5, C, E, K and folate, which are great for the body and mind. I first started drinking it when I read it is good for hay fever, which I suffer badly from.
Please be aware though drinking to excess can cause diarrhea and nausea and I was advised to drink it whilst I was pregnant.
I have most recently putting it into pasta as I watched a programme where she added to homemade pasta as an added ingredient to add vitamins to her dinner. I was a little sceptical about this to start with as it can taste a little bitter but I have to say I was hooked. I often throw some in now but please always cook it before eating else you will have a very sore mouth.
The best ways to pick the plant is by the stem and avoid the leaves or wear gloves as quite a lot is needed for any dish as it wilts down to about quarter of the size.
This plant is not only pretty and attracts wildlife but also really good for your health, it's the cheapest easiest plant to look after just leave it and it will look after itself without watering or interference. I would recommend next time you're weeding leave a little of the humble weed and give it a try its not for everyone but I really like it.
Most people treat nettles with the same disdain as telephone sales calls - they're unwanted, hopefully avoided and irritating. The common nettle however has lots of different uses, and with a bit of "blue sky thinking" can be seen as much more than an annoying weed that is difficult to remove from the garden. Hopefully this review will change your opinion about nettles and show you how to embrace the presence of nettles at the back of your shrub laden borders.
Latin name Urtica dioica, the stinging nettle is found all over the world in temperate climates, from urban wastelands in the UK to caves in China. They are perennial, meaning that they will return year after year once established in a certain spot. The sting, which we've all suffered from as children, comes from a tiny amount of formic acid (the same acid that biting ants have when they nibble on us) which is located in small "hairs" along the stem and leaves. These hairs are like miniature hypodermic needles and inject their painful substance when brushed against. How many of us as youngsters soon learned to look for dock leaves to sooth our nettle-stung legs and forearms with? That's because dock leaves contain a small amount of anti-histamine which will soothe the stings, although other than that, they are actually not much use as they also contain oxalic acid which will, when combined with the formic acid, make the sting feel worse. Many think that the action of looking round for dock leaves does nothing more than take your mind off the nettle stings!
GROWING YOUR OWN
The best way of introducing nettles to your garden is to transplant them from somebody else's garden who wants rid of them. But why bother introducing this child stinging, unattractive "weed" to our gardens? - because they are excellent habitats for quite a few different species of butterflies and also attract the gardeners' friend, the ladybird, who will repay your kindness in providing them with nettles by eating all the greenflies and other aphids that are doing their best to ruin your plants. Nettles can also be eaten and used to make beer, as well as being good food for chickens and when rotted in water make an excellent liquid plant feed.
They prefer a soil that is high in nitrogen, which helps promote all that leafy growth. There's a bit of old gardeners' wisdom that weeing onto your nettle patch helps make them grow, but my garden is overlooked so I haven't tried this theory out- I'm a bit shy!
As mentioned above, they are sought out by butterflies which lay their eggs specifically onto the nettle leaves, including Red Admirals, Commas and Peacocks, so if you're keen on having a wildlife friendly garden, your nettle patch down at the bottom end next to the shed shouldn't be dug up.
If you're brave and have an inquisitive streak that would kill the average cat, whilst wearing thick rubber gloves you can pick off the top few leaves of new growth in spring, wash them, lightly boil them for a few minutes and eat them in the same way you would eat spinach. I've eaten nettles like this, and thought they were a bit "grassy", but if you mix them in well with other salad leaves they are less noticeable. Lightly boiling them renders the stings inert. You can also make nettle soup; here's how:
Wash a carrier bag full of nettle tops, and remove any large woody stalks. Don't worry about removing all of the stalks as the nettles will be getting liquidised later on. Allow to drain, and meanwhile warm up the holy trinity of soup veg (celery, onions and carrots - all chopped) in a pan with some butter. When the holy trinity are softened, add a pint of vegetable or chicken stock and throw in the nettles too. You can also add garlic, salt and pepper to your own tastes and preference. To thicken it up, I add a couple of peeled and chopped potatoes to this. Bring all this to the boil, then allow it to simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the nettles have gone soft. Carefully (don't forget it will be piping hot) start to liquidise this with a hand held liquidiser or by using a blender until all the lumps have gone. You can either eat it now whilst hot, or allow to cool and then freeze for later.
For those that make their own beer at home, nettles can be used in the place of hops. I've tasted both nettle beer and nettle cordial, and have to say I thought they were disgusting, but that's a matter of personal taste and you might disagree. I won't shamelessly increase my word count by describing the brewing method here, but if you're interested it can be found on the "selfsufficientish.com" website.
If you pick large nettle plants and allow them to dry, they can then be crushed up and fed to chickens - it encourages them to lay eggs and the chickens seem to enjoy it too. Dried nettles can also be fed to grazing animals - from pet rabbits to goats. If you want to use end of season nettles that are starting to die off as a plant food, cut them down, chop them up (you can go over a chopped down pile of them with a lawn mower) and soak in a bucket of water for a few weeks until they rot. Keep a lid on the bucket so that the rain won't make it overflow. I must say that this will stink, so don't have it by your back door. When they've rotted, dilute it with water and feed your other plants with it - most plants love the high nitrogen mix (it also contains sulphur and iron) and respond well to this sort of feed.
Nettles have long been used for treating health ailments in various forms - brewed as a tea, taken as a dried powder, mixed with ointment and rubbed into the skin etc depending on the ailment. Nettles can affect the menstrual cycle, so always get proper medical advice before you use any nettle remedies. A "wonder drug" effect of nettles is its effect on warts - squeeze the juice from a nettle onto a wart over a few days and it will just disappear! (just remember to wear thick rubber gloves when you squeeze the juices out!). Also, it works wonders for hair and will delay baldness if applied to the scalp as a "tea". Here's a little fact I found on the internet - the cosmetics company Clairol uses about 40 tonnes of nettles a year when making hair products. Not bad for a weed that most of us go to great (and often painful) lengths to remove from our gardens.
Hopefully I've changed some of your opinions about nettles and shown you how useful they can be. I know there's a stigma attached to them - you should see the look of revulsion and horror on the face of my eldest daughter when I suggest we have nettle soup for tea! If you haven't purged your garden yet and ethnically cleansed nettles out of existence, look at them in a different light this year and see how many ways you can use them. If you want to find out more about using nettles, in the month of May every year it is normally national "be nice to nettles" week (straight up!) and there is also a good book on the subject by a man called Piers Warren - "101 uses for stinging nettles" which is available on Amazon for just under six pounds brand new. Thanks for reading - it's been hard not to include any bad puns about having a sting in the tail etc!
The stinging nettle Urtica dioca is common throughout the British Isles, growing on waste ground in urban areas as well as the countryside. It's increasing in some areas of countryside in fact, as nettles grow very well in fertile ground, and so-called 'fertiliser drift' - involving agricultural sprays moving into areas of habitat adjacent to arable land has led to banks of nettles colonising the edges of previously nutrient-poor areas of countryside, such as woodlands.
Once familiar to schoolchildren everywhere, the dark green, upright stems bear jagged-edged pointed leaves. The(wind-pollinated?) flowers are long, green and relatively inconspicuous and come from the leaf axils around the top of the plant. Nettles spread via horizontal stems to form a fairly dense 'bed' and though they can be relatively tall plants - up to a metre, but usually somewhat less than this - because they get 'leggy' as they age they don't tend to form a wall-effect of greenery.
Nettle plants are of course best known for their stinging properties. They are covered with tiny hairs which are hollow and made of tough, siliceous material. These act like minute hypodermic syringes to inject an irritant chemical under the skin of anyone who brushes up against the plant causing a localised allergic reaction - painful and itchy - that soon causes the skin to weal up into a series of lumps and bumps - the classic 'nettle rash'. The painful effects do tend to subside relatively quickly - maybe within about 15 minutes - but the stings can be 'reactivated' eg. when the stung area gets wetted in the bath.
Another thing nettles are well-known for is their folk-use as an edible hedgerow herb. Most people will have at least one eccentric relative or acquaintance - or at least know of some local 'beardy-weirdie' - who likes to harvest and eat the leaves of this plant. It has to be harvested carefully - ideally by someone wearing rubber gloves to avoid the stings - and it's very important to eat only young nettle plants as the older leaves build up concentrations of chemicals that are said to be harmful when eaten. Happily, young nettle plants are dead easy to identify - especially if you pick them in spring as there's no possibility for error at this time of year, because the old growth of the previous year's plant will have died back (nettles are pretty much perennial-type plants, which have a root system that persists from one year to the next while the above-ground parts of the plant wither and die back during the winter). Young nettles have bright green as opposed to dark green leaves, the young plants look more compact, having not had time to grow tall and leggy, and look more 'lush' as a result also. The height of the plant is also a good indicator of age; personally I would not pick nettles for eating from any plant that was more than about a foot tall. If you have culinary designs on the nettle bank in your garden or some other accessible place, you can cut them down near the base when they start to get leggy as the summer progresses. This makes the plant send up shoots of new growth, formed of leaves in the young, and hence edible, state so you can get a 'second crop' of nettle later in the year.
Happily, once thoroughly cooked the stinging effect of nettle disappears and what you're left with is a green vegetable something like spinach - but with admittedly a tendency to feel a little hairy in the mouth, unless you've really and thoroughly reduced it to a vegetable pulp. It can be made into a soup with a faint but distinctive flavour and I have also used it (alongside roadkill rabbit) instead of spinach to make a wild food version the Indian dish 'lamb saag' with great success.
If edible nettles don't appeal, the plant has other potential uses: the fibres of the older stems are tough and have been used as a natural type of cordage and even woven into cloth like linen in the past. The plant is also the larval food-source for a number of butterfly species, including the tortoiseshell, the red admiral and the peacock, so leaving a small bank of nettles in the garden - ideally at the back of a bed or in an otherwise out-of-the-way place - is excellent for the purposes of wildlife-gardening, too.
Urtica Dioica is the common stinging nettle. We have all seen these growing up to six feet tall in summer and been stung by them. It is the sap in the plant that causes urticaria, or nettle rash.
There are 45 species of nettle and these plants support more than 40 species of insect, including some of the most colourful butterflies. The stinging hairs on the nettle are so effective that few animals will graze on them. This makes them perfect for insects to live and breed on. They are protected from predators. Tortoiseshell and peacock butterflies love nettles. Ladybirds and some birds are agile enough to be able to eat the large numbers of greenfly that inhabit nettle beds.
So, that patch of nettles in your garden is vital for wildlife preservation. A wildlife garden wouldn't be complete without nettles.
Nutritionally the nettle is an excellent source of calcium, magnesium and iron and the young shoots can be cooked in the same way as spinach and used as a vegetable. The Northumberland Cheese Company produces nettle cheese. Animals from benefit from nettles too as once the stems are dried, the sting loses its power and they can be mixed with feed for cattle and horses.
The fibres from mature nettles have also been used to weave cloth and boiling the leaves produces a natural green dye, while the roots give a yellow dye.
If you are an organic gardener rearing nettles will give you a great crop of ladybirds which will take care of green and white aphids in your garden. The leaves can also be used to pack fruit. Put it them between the layers to help fight off mould.
Brew strong nettle tea and spray it on your plants. It makes an excellent fertiliser and don't forget to add the nitrogen rich leaves to the compost heap.
When you've finished doing all this try making nettle beer.
The nettle is a useful plant to grow in your garden and cultivating a patch can be very worthwhile.
We all must have seen a nettle or even been stung, I know I have been stung once when I fell over and landed face first in a bush of them.
There are some amazing facts about the nettle and a lot of myths that not a lot of people know about, hopefully this will enlighten you.
The Nettle also goes by the name of devils leaf and devils plaything
Nettle - Urtica - This review is for the stinging nettle species.
Stinging Nettle can be found all over the world, and is found almost growing in damp rich soil.
The generic name Urtica funny enough comes from the Latin "uro" which means I burn.
The Roman army brought the plant to Britain and planted it and they use to use the nettle to keep themselves warm by flogging there arms and legs to keep the blood circulation going (ouch!). The male and female plants are separate, the female flower hangs down in clusters and the male flower sticks out.
Even in the Bronze Age, the nettle was used for making cloth, People in the middle ages believed where nettles grew it marked the home of elves, they also used nettles to protect there milk from witches.
Before the second world war massive amounts where imported to Britain form Germany as the dye from the plant was used in camouflage.
Use gloves when handling the plant to avoid stinging, if you get stung use a Dot leaf or even use Aloe as i found it helps.
I don't think we need to go into the growing of the stinging Nettle, why waste out time on something we can go and ask out next door neighbour for, free and I am sure they would be happy for you to take it away.
The stinging nettle is a hardy perennial, and can grow to 5ft and spreads by creeping root.
The nettle has lots of therapeutic uses, and is used medicinally for all kinds of internal haemorrhages. Also used as a diuretic in jaundice, and used as a laxative.
It also has dermatology properties which help to cure things like eczema.
Nettles are also high in Iron and in Vitamin C
The plant produces a green/yellow dye. Also nettles are very useful to the gardener against blackfly and aphids.
Pick a bucket full on nettles, pour rain water over them, and cover and allow soaking for about a week. Then strain the liquid and put into a spray, and use on the pests mentioned above.
Nettles are rich in Vitamin and minerals. The best times to eat the leaves are in spring when you can cook and eat them like spinach.
Do not eat old plants uncooked as they can produce kidney damage and poisoning. The plants should be cooked thoroughly to be on the safe side.
As with all herbal medicine do your researches before you use it
Thanks for reading my reviews, and thankyou for rating them.
Tashi Delek (May everything be well)
enlightened_one © 2007
Review also on ciao