For gardeners, farmers and especially unwary children, nettles are sometimes a nuisance. Although they sting and are invasive, nettles are valuable plants in the garden: they attract butterflies and caterpillars feed on them greedily.
Nettles (Urtica dioica) grow around the world, especially in rich and moist soils. The genus name comes from the Latin “uro” meaning “I burn”. During the Middle Ages, the plant was endowed a thousand magical virtues and it was believed that the plant grew where gnomes lived. In the seventeenth centuries, settlers from New England were soon surprised to find that they had brought with them the cursed and beneficial plant.
Nettles have many uses.
The young leaves are harvested in the spring. Remember to wear gloves! Nettle is rich in vitamins and minerals. During the spring, the young leaves are used as spinach in soups, sautéed, in casserole, or as a tea. After long winter months, the nettle is a valuable source of minerals and vitamins of all kinds. It is very rich in vitamin C and iron, and make this a great tonic for treating anemia.
The nettle must be handled carefully and must be cooked, boiled, blanched or braised before being consumed.
Nettle soup. Everyone has heard about it but no one ever has the courage to try it! Yet nettle is not missing in our pastures.
- Pick 4 cups nettles and place in a large saucepan with 2 small potatoes, chopped, and cover with water. Cook until the potatoes are soft about 15 minutes. Purée using a blender and add fresh cream or butter, salt and pepper. Serve with sour cream or crème fraîche.
In the garden, nettle leaf is used to make a decoction and is an excellent insecticide against aphids.
- Fill up one bucket of nettle leaves and stems and cover with water. Let sit for one week, strain and use in a spray bottle on the affected plants.
Beauty tips. Nettle also has the reputation of preventing hair loss and makes hair soft and shinny. Nettle is also efficient to treat dandruff.
- Pick 2 cups of nettles and put them in a saucepan with 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer 15 minutes. Strain and let cool. After washing hair use as a conditioner and massage the scalp well. Keep the remaining in the refrigerator.