This month is the time to explore the wonders of Stinging Nettles.
Stinging nettle has a long history of culinary (and medicinal) usage especially in Europe and they grow abundantly in the highly fertile soils here at Wynlen House. Nettles are a good source of fibre; are very high in vitamin A; and are also a good source of dietary calcium, iron, and protein. Nettle is recommend as a high-protein, low-calorie source of essential nutrients, minerals, and vitamins particularly in vegetarian, vegan, diabetic, or other specialized diets.
In our region Nettles are at their best at this time of year. They thrust themselves up from the barely warm ground in late July /early August and this early fresh young growth is the best time to eat them. By late September nettles are starting to become coarse and hoary, and they should not be eaten once they begin to form flowers. It is important to remember that they are called Stinging Nettle for a reason. Nettles have fine hairs that even only brushed lightly on bare skin, create the feeling akin to dozens of little syringes injecting fiery pain. Wearing gloves and long sleeves is essential attire for harvesting and in the kitchen it is essential to wear cloves for cleaning and preparing. Cooking or drying neutralises the stinging (toxic) components. Nettles can be used as a tea, in soup, blanched for a salad or even added to pizza. I am exploring the culinary wonders of nettles this week with plans to make nettle pesto for the stall. Nettles can be used to replace other green veg, particularly silverbeet or spinach in any recipe.
In the garden stinging nettle is often just seen as an annoying weed, that is literally a pain to remove. However like many weeds they can have a role to play. They're a good indication that the soil is quite high in nutrients, especially phosphorus; and nettles are high in nutrients such as iron, magnesium and nitrogen. They can be turned in as a green manure crop; used in compost; can be made into a liquid fertilizer (tea). We are currently using them as a living mulch. Of course if using nettles for these purposes it is best that they be turned in or removed before the seed has set. If they have gone to seed you can still use them for a fertilizer tea.
A simple recipe for a fertilizer tea.
There are many recipes available using specific ingredients and quantities, however the following is a good standard recipe:
Bronwyn Richards has cared for animals and has been growing vegetables successfully all her adult life. She is principle gardener for Wynlen House Farm