If you look up the definition of nettle in the dictionary, you'll find the verb, 'to nettle', meaning to irritate or annoy (someone). No wonder then, that the herb that we have all brushed up against at some time, only to be annoyed and irritated by a prickly rash for several hours after, has been given the name Stinging Nettles.
There's more to nettles than their sting.
Not only are nettles nutritious, they have many benefits to the health of both our bodies and our gardens.
I initially grew nettles to combine with comfrey to make compost tea. The leaves contain nitrogen, iron, magnesium and sulphur, which are all beneficial for your garden. Steeping the leaves in water for a few weeks releases the minerals, making them available to the roots of plants.
Being high in nitrogen, the leaves are also a great activator for your compost heap. The microorganisms use the nitrogen as fuel to break everything down into useable compost. The heat in the compost pile comes from the energy produced from burning the fuel.
Brew a pot of healthy nettle tea
In addition to tea for your plants, the leaves also make a healthy tea for the weary gardener. Nettles are a rich source of iron and calcium as well as containing pro-vitamin A, the vitamin B complex, vitamin K1 and vitamin C, which can help the body absorb the iron and other minerals found in the plant. (Source)
As well as having nutritional benefits, it is said that nettles can help with many health issues, including Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) and Urinary Issues; Osteoarthritis and Joint Pain; Hay Fever and Allergies; and Eczema. (Source) I sometimes suffer from seasonal allergies so I thought I should give the tea a try. As for joint pain, show me a gardener who doesn't have joint pain!
I use thick gloves to pick young leaves from plants that have not flowered or gone to seed. Then dry them in the sun or in a dehydrator. Leaves can also be cooked fresh, much like spinach, added to stir fries or made into a nutritious soup. Cooking and drying the leaves will disarm the sting.
How to make Stinging Nettle Tea
- Take a cup of dried Stinging Nettle Leaves and crush them slightly ( drying them will have disarmed most of the sting) then place them in a teapot.
- Add 2-3 cups of boiling water.
- Leave to steep for 10 minutes before pouring through a tea strainer. Enjoy!
- Note: I often add mint leaves for extra flavour.
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