Nettle is the first wild food of the year, and the sight of its young jagged leaves in early April, is a welcome sign that the Wheel of the Year has turned and Spring is truly here.

2016-04-05 11.18.47
Witches are not immune to nettle stings: the trick is not to mind.

Nettle is a wild plant that I treat with enormous respect and admiration, although it was not always so.  My first gardening job involved clearing a large patch of waste ground and in those days I was very hench: no gardening gloves for me, as I liked to feel the earth underneath my fingernails.  I pulled up nettles bare handed, safe in the knowledge that if you grasp the stalk firmly you don’t get stung.  Later that night I was woken from a deep sleep by hundreds of little throbbing stings in my hands, extraordinarily painful.  From that time, I have always worn gardening gloves.

There are some very good reasons not to pull nettles out.  Here are six of them:

  1. You can make nettle tea with them.
  2. You can make nettle soup with them.
  3. I am told on the best authority that you can use the young leaves to make Spanakopita.
  4. You can make a wonderful plant feed with them and will never need to buy Tomorite again.
  5. Red Admiral and Painted Lady butterflies lay their eggs on them, and the caterpillars feed on the leaves.
  6. You can crop them several times in the year, so instead of regarding them as a perennial pest, see them as a renewable resource.



The desire to drink nettle tea tends to come on in the evening.  It is pale green and strangely addictive.

You will need

  • Marigold rubber gloves or similar, to protect your hands
  • A large plastic bag, or trug, to collect the nettles
  • A large jar with a well fitting lid*, or a tea caddy.
  • A small teapot

Find a secluded nettle patch – it should be away from a road, and away from any suggestion of herbicide.  Pick your nettles carefully: you only want the the very young leaves at the tip of the stalk.  You need lots of nettles, so fill your bag.

To wash or not to wash? I don’t: the leaves are going to be steeped in boiling water, which should kill off any germs; and besides, wet leaves tend to rot.

To dry the nettles, spread them out in a warm, airy place.  I lay them out on newspaper in my spare bedroom.  Turn them carefully every few days so that they dry out. After about a week they will be dry, papery and you should be able to crumble them between your fingers.

Your container is important.  It should be large enough, with a well fitting lid, clean and completely dry.  Transfer the dried nettles into the container, and label including the date.

To make the tea, you will need a small teapot.

Add 1 – 2 heaped teaspoons to the pot, and fill up with boiling water.  Let it steep for about 5 minutes.

Then savour and enjoy. It will do you the Power of Good.













2 thoughts on “N IS FOR NETTLE

  1. Now I realise I missed a trick with my weeding yesterday! This is very useful – one question – you say to date the label on the tin/ jar. Do the leaves need to be used very quickly? When would you dispose of any left over leaves?
    Is the recipe for the feed mix coming up next please? Or do we google that?


  2. Chris, if you have ensured that the leaves are completely dry, they will last all year, and possibly beyond. I made mine last spring, and finished it this February.

    Nettle plant food is coming shortly.

    Thanks for your comment.


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