While I remember it (Homepage)

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If you’re picking them yourself, use thick gloves, wear a long sleeve shirt and something to protect your legs if you’re stepping through them. Most recipes use just two or three cups of closely packed leaves so you don’t need a lot.

If you find a patch, avoid the edges where dogs cock their legs, likewise avoid heavily polluted roadsides where car fumes add things that the obligatory washing will not remove.

For nettle recipes, look in The Silver Spoon, and there is a wealth of recipe offerings online. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall of ex River Café fame, offers a variation on the risotto by adding porcini, and has what sounds like a delicious white bean and nettle soup with cannellini beans. He also has a nettle variation on gnocchi verde, which is traditionally made with spinach.

Nettle lore

In France, nettles are called ‘orties’, in Italian ‘ortiche’, and in Germany ‘Brennessel’, which is literally ‘burn nettle’. The town name Gympie comes from the aboriginal 'gimpi', meaning a 'stinging nettle bush'.

Dock plants often grow in the same spots as nettles, and squeezing the juice from dock stalks, soothes the sting. Wiping with a chamois like you use for car cleaning, removes the spikes, as it acts like skin.

‘Seizing the nettle firmly’ does work for me if you’re just grabbing the stalks. Then the fine hairs bend over under pressure, but you'll learn to not be tentative.

Getting rid of them is hard. In 1926, the Royal Horticultural Society's recommendation for getting rid of nettles was to cut them down three times in three consecutive years, after which 'they will disappear'.

The fresh leaves contain a cocktail of vitamins and b-complexes acting as antioxidants. The leaves contain a high content of the metals selenium, zinc, iron, and magnesium.  They contain boron, sodium, iodine, chromium, copper, and sulfur. Crushing the woody stalks and leaves makes stringy fibres, that can be spun into a tough yarn, and has been used for weaving cloth since the Bronze Age. It was widely used in Germany during the World Wars to make uniforms. Flax and hemp have replaced it as a commercial plant.

The Romans used nettles as a herbal cure for everything, and modern herbal uses are almost as positive about the effects. The complex chemicals in the plant have led to a number of scientific medical developments.

But you’d be wise to take your nettle tea in moderation, Milarepa, one of the founders of Tibetan Buddhism drank nothing but nettle tea from when he was 45 until he died at the age of 83. His likeness in paintings and statues is always depicted with his skin as being green, and apparently it really was.

Cooking nettles at Sage Restaurant >