Nettles are the new spinach for those on a #thriftyliving diet

Nettles anyone?

Nettles anyone? - Credit: Archant

A few weeks ago I sampled the delights of cheese scones with a thrifty ingredient - dandelions - and alluded to the fact I was thinking of living a little more dangerously, by adding a few nettles to the Grant family diet.

Well, I’ve done it. And there hasn’t been a sting in sight (so far).

Regular readers will recall that my new-found enthusiasm for foraging was fired by Julie Foster, who aims to inspire others to bolster their modern diets with a few age-old, free ingredients by leading walks near her Newbourne home.

And once I’d learned just how much potential nettles have as a food source, I really couldn’t ignore them. You see, to say I have a nettle patch at the bottom of my garden is to do it an injustice. It’s bigger, much bigger than that. Think seas, even rolling oceans and you are approaching the right magnitude.

And up until now I had thought these nettles’ sole purpose was to try and sting me as I cut the grass nearby. How naive I was.

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Nettles are, in fact, apparently superior in nutritional value to many garden veg and are an excellent source of vitamin C and iron.

They have medicinal value too and are said to be a preventative antihistamine - take them steadily from early spring and they may just help banish hay fever.

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You can even use them as a plant food in the garden by leaving them to steep in a bucket of water for a week and then pouring the smelly liquid onto the soil.

If you’re persuaded and want to give it a try, carefully pick the top four leaves of each plant. Wear gardening gloves to protect from stings or, if you’re brave (I’m not), do as the proverb suggests and grasp the nettle (apparently this crushes the sting before it can do any damage).

You can use nettles as you would spinach, in a curry or even a tea. Cook by blanching, boiling or steaming. So far, I’ve used my nettles in a Julie Foster-inspired seasoning, combined with sea salt and finely-chopped rosemary. And if you do get stung, console yourself with this thought: it’s said to be good for stiff joints and aching muscles.

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