'Be Nice to Nettles'
So this week is ‘Be Nice to Nettles Week’! I know, it doesn’t sound particularly exciting, but given that you asked for some foraging ideas a few weeks back, I thought this week was the perfect excuse to get you exploring the not so ‘weedy’ plants all around us. And of course, we are Nettlebed…
But before we get into this week's plans, how did you all get on with your hedgehog feeding stations? I have to admit I was giving up… the dog and cat got into both of ours on 2 evenings, and then still nothing once we had pet ‘proofed’ them,.. but last night finally, we had the visitor we have been waiting for!
I have also been sent some amazing bird box video footage, and pictures of nests/eggs that have ben found so I will try and get that up on the website too.
Back to this week...
Before we start there are some basic rules on foraging:
There must be enough plants for you to pick any (a rule of 5…5 plants = 1 to pick, one for the wildlife, one that might get trampled, one that might just die and one to keep that population going)… If there are any less than 5 plants then do not pick it.
Never pick from a roadside (fumes and dirt from the cars), side of a path (dogs wee there!), edge of a field (farmers spray chemicals)
If you are not 100% sure it is what you think it is then DON’T PICK IT
Check that you are not allergic or in any of the vulnerable categories for consuming certain foods (some plants can cause certain reactions in people i.e lower/increase blood pressure for example)
Here is a link to a PDF I have created on 4 amazing 'wild herbs'- Nettles, Cleavers, Wild Garlic and Jack by the Hedge, with a risotto recipe. See if you can go and find them on your next walk.. or in your garden and let me know what you think.
Nettles are just so fantastic, for so many reasons… do you know why they sting? Do you know what they are good for wildlife? And really, do you know how good they are for humans?
Here are 8 reasons why nettles are worth nurturing (adapted from the BBC):
Butterflies can't get enough of it. Nettles are butterfly food for at least two common British species - the Red Admiral and Painted Lady. Without these ruthlessly efficient plant pollinators all sorts of crops would suffer and that in turn could affect the human food chain. It's not just the disappearance of the bees we need to worry about.
They have SO many health benefits - packed with magnesium, iron and calcium - all essential minerals for healthy humans including helping reduce inflammation, treating hay fever, and helping burns heal (https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/stinging-nettle#section1)
They are survivors. The sting on the underside of the nettle leaf is designed to protect it. Tiny hairs laced with formic acid sink into the skin leaving raised bumps.
They tend to come with their own first aid kit. Dock leaves are commonly believed to soothe the symptoms of a nettle sting, and they often grow close by. But their proximity is pure coincidence says Phil Griffiths, conservatories manager at Kew Gardens. "They're just both very quick to adapt to neglected areas.”
Nettles are strong. The fibre inside the plants can be spun into string and used to make fabric for clothing, cushion covers, and even paper. "A mature nettle is incredibly fibrous, like flaxen," says Guy Barter from the Royal Horticultural Society. The German army used nettle fabric to make army uniforms during World War I.
They are low-maintenance. Nettles love wasteland. They will flourish wherever the soil is rich in phosphate and are common throughout Northern Europe. They can grow to be 4ft tall.
They're tasty too, although nettle nutrition is a dish best served hot. The sting disappears when the leaves are boiled which is probably why they are most commonly consumed in the form of tea. If that's not your cuppa, nettle soup is also "earthy, slightly tangy, outrageously healthy," according to Good Food magazine blogger Toby Travis. The basic ingredients are nettles, onions, potato, stock and seasoning.
And finally, they can raise your spirits... literally. Nettle wine is a traditional country wine that's enjoying a bit of a resurgence. It is a very dry, crisp wine that "retains a bit of a prickle" according to Lyme Bay Winery manager James Lambert
Lots more to learn about Nettles here…. http://www.nettles.org.uk
We have made bows and arrows at school which have been a real success, and I have seen pictures of some of you making them at home too, so this is a new way to fling things around your garden.
Why not, make a target and see what different items that you could use… what flies the best? Are some things too heavy? You can make flour bombs too which might be safer than stones.. (please be safe or I’ll be in a lot of trouble).
Have a look at the PDF for instructions…
As always, please do send me any pictures or videos of your creations and I will share them with the group and pop them on the school website. I love seeing any outdoor things you do so fee free to send any pictures along