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5 reasons to appreciate nettles

Laura Sevier

1st May 2009

To most people nettles are a troublesome weed to be cursed, avoided or eradicated. Here are five reasons to appreciate them

The nettle is an excellent source of iron, calcium and magnesium, and a range of vitamins.

1. Wildlife
In the UK, the nettle supports more than 40 species of insect, including some of our most colourful butterflies. In late summer the huge quantity of seeds nettles produce provides a food source for many birds.

2. Food
For centuries people have eaten nettles. At one point they would have been relished as springtime treat. In 1661 Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary of having eaten ‘… some nettle pudding, which was very good’. Nutritionally the nettle is an excellent source of iron, calcium and magnesium, and a range of vitamins. The young shoots can be used in soups and stews and in place of spinach.

Nettles have a long history as a medicinal herb. They are a valuable ingredient of herbal tonics and tinctures. Nettle is said to be an excellent detoxifier because of its diuretic properties. It is currently used to provide relief from ailments including allergies, anaemia and arthritic problems.

4. Textiles
The first use of nettle as a fibre in clothmaking can be traced back to the Bronze Age. Research projects in Europe are trying to find economic ways of cultivating nettles and processing the fibre on a commercial scale.

5. In the Garden
Young, freshly cut nettles make an excellent compost activator. Nettles can also be made into a liquid plant-feed. Pack them into a bucket and steep them in water for two weeks, stirring occasionally. Strain and dilute one part nettle juice with 10 parts water.

13 -24 May is ‘Be Nice to Nettles’ Week, a CONE initiative.

For ethical and sustainable suppliers of Home and Garden goods and services check out the Ecologist Green Directory here


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