Nature Diary: Pick nettles

Nettles are rich in vitamins A and C and iron, potassium, manganese and calcium

In Ireland, tidy town groups are now aware of the importance of leaving wild areas with nettles as butterflies and moths feed on them. Photograph: Getty

In Ireland, tidy town groups are now aware of the importance of leaving wild areas with nettles as butterflies and moths feed on them. Photograph: Getty

 

Considered an annoying weed by many people due to their sting, nettles are nonetheless an important source of medicine, food and fibre. Rich in vitamins A and C and iron, potassium, manganese and calcium, nettles picked in the spring months make a tasty and nutritious soup or a herbal tonic.

Nettle leaves are also popular in pesto, cordials and herbal tea. The trick for picking them is to grasp them firmly in the centre of the leaf, avoiding the stinging parts on the edge of the leaves. 

Nettles are usually found close to human habitation and thrive in soil with high levels of phosphate and nitrogen. Historically, nettles were used to make clothing – especially when cotton was in short supply – and nettle textiles are still produced commercially in some countries.

In Ireland, tidy town groups are now aware of the importance of leaving wild areas with nettles because butterflies and moths feed on them. The traditional cure for a nettle sting is to rub a dock leaf on the sting immediately. Conveniently, these large flat leaves usually grow close to a patch of nettles. 

See also wildflowersofireland.net

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