Photos and article by Jacqui Shannon.
Stinging Nettles are terrible, brush up against them and you instantly know. Itchy red bumps that stay irritating for what seems like forever. We’ve all been there. Stings aside however, you might be surprised to hear that this hardy nuisance is a bit of a celebrity in the world of organic gardening.
Nettles offer the organic gardener a triple benefit.
One of the first greens to shoot up in the early spring, young tops are a much welcomed first green for our beneficial insect predators such as the Ladybug. .
Blanched quickly they’re fantastic in risotto, and steeped, they make a rejuvenating tea.
The third reason organic gardeners allow the nettle to remain is to make organic fertilizer. Nettles have a root structure that allows them to pull mineral nutrients up from much deeper depths of soil than many plants. The nutrients are then in the plants stem and leaves. Left to their own when the plant dies back in winter the nutrients are then available in the compost. Fortunately, we don’t have to rely on the natural cycle of things!
The benefits of Nettle tea is available the whole of the growing season and it’s really simple to make. There are two methods you can use a quick one that gives a bit of benefit, or a longer process that really packs a nutrient punch (and a pretty pungent smell!) Use which ever suits you, be sure to wear protective clothing to avoid the “sting.”
Quick Method: Pick the nettles and boil the leaves and stems for 30min. Let cool, strain, and you’re ready to use. The liquid should be the colour of weak black tea.
The Long Method: Pick the nettles, bruise the leaves and stems and pack in your container. Weigh the greens down with a brick or some rock and cover with water. Let it sit submerged for up to 3 weeks, it will really start to smell. The longer the better. Then use in a 1:10 ratio on your plant soil.