Nettles Everywhere You Look…

Nettles are an herbaceous, flowering, perennial plant that are widespread and common throughout the United Kingdom. They have hairy stinging leaves and stems, with yellow spreading roots.

The Latin name is Urtica dioica. Urtica comes from the Latin word to sting and dioica refers to the fact that they are dioecious meaning they have separate male and female flowers. In the second world war nettles were gathered to extract chlorophyll and to make dyes for camouflage nets. Where humans have enriched land through settlement nettles have always followed, they love fertile ground and are great at using the nutrients and consequently, they are full of goodness when consumed. They are high in vitamin A and C, and some B vitamins. They also contain potassium, calcium, chromium, copper, magnesium and iron. They are high in protein too. Our ancestors used them as a spring tonic after a winter of surviving on grains and dried meat with little or no greens.

Stinging Nettle

They are widespread and very common and have multiple uses, so from a Bushcraft and survival perspective are a valuable resource. They can be used as food, medicinally and as cordage. The fibres in nettles were reportedly used in Germany to make soldiers uniforms in World War I. One of the amazing facts that many people may not know is that the best thing for relieving a nettle sting is the nettle itself, which contains antihistamine. Simply gather a handful of leaves and crush them in your hands to release the nettle juice and apply to the stung area. The leaves are great as a hay fever treatment too for the same antihistamine effect. The power of the natural world to provide what you need is awesome. I am a strong believer in the flow between plants, people and connection to the land. If you are interested, please see my March blog on foraging and the state of flow. I like to think that we are connected to the land by the plants that we observe and interact with and when I walk past a patch of nettles the plant is reminding me of its potential uses, encouraging me to engage with it.

Stinging Nettle

In this blog I am going to focus on making nettle cordial. A great way of building a connection to a plant is to wrap a story around it. In this particular case the information certainly is sticking and therefore hopefully memorable. We are all very familiar with making elderflower cordial at this time of year and I have written a blog about that too, but I would like to introduce you to nettle cordial as a less well-known spring and summer delight.

Nettle Cordial ingredients
• Pick approximately 200g of nettle tops
• 500ml warm water
• 1kg granulated sugar
• 40g Citric acid

Having picked approximately 200g of fresh nettle tops, bring them home and wash them in a colander with cold water and squeeze off any excess water.

Collected stinging nettles, ready to process
Washing the singing nettles

Add 1kg of granulated sugar to a pan along with the 40g of Citric acid.

Granulated sugar

Pour over 500ml of off the boil water and mix with a whisk.

500ml of off the boil water

Put on the heat and gently simmer until all the sugar is dissolved. Add the nettle tops a hand full at a time, press them into the sweet warm water and as they wilt add more until all the nettles are in.

Add the nettle tops a hand full at a time

Pour into a glass mixing bowl and leave on a windowsill, covered with a tea towel for 3 to 7 days, depending on the strength of flavour you desire.

Stir the mixture each day

Important to stir the mixture each day and taste the sweet cordial spoon afterwards to discern taste and encourage excitement and anticipation. Sterilize some bottles and pour and store in the fridge or give to friends, or just drink it with a little sparkling water.

Nettle cordial, ready to enjoy

Tick tock its Nettle cordial o’clock!

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