... And they're free!
Pick and eat them NOW whilst they are still bright green and soft. The flavour and texture changes quite quickly as they approach flowering. Use them any way you would use spinach or make the classic Nettle Soup Recipe below.. Scroll down for a Nettle Soup For Plants recipe.
Polly's Nettle Soup
- Approx 150g nettle tops (half a carrier bag full)
- 40g knob of butter
- 1 smallish onion, peeled & diced
- 1 large leek, trimmed washed & sliced
- 1 celery stick chopped or 1 carrot chopped
- 1 large clove garlic, peeled & chopped
- 2 tbsp white rice, such as basmati
- 1 litre vegetable (or chicken) stock
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 6 heaped tbsp thick, plain yoghurt & a small bunch chives, chopped OR
- Half a boiled egg & a few drops of Tabasco/Hot sauce
Pick over the nettles, wash them thoroughly and discard the tougher stalks. Melt the butter in a large pan over medium-low heat, add the onion, leek, celery (or carrot) and garlic, cover and sweat gently for 10 minutes, stirring a few times, until soft but not brown.
Add the rice and stock, bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Add the nettles, stirring them into the stock as they wilt, and simmer for five minutes or so, until the rice and the nettles are tender (very young nettle tops will need only two to three minutes). Season with plenty of salt and pepper.
Purée the soup in two batches, reheat if necessary and check the seasoning. Serve in warmed bowls, topping each portion with a large dollop of yoghurt and a generous sprinkling of snipped chives, or to make more of a meal out of it, serve with half a boiled egg, as above, and a dash of Tabasco.
Nettle Soup For Plants
This brilliant, natural fertiliser contains iron, copper magnesium, nitrogen, potassium, and calcium.
Perfect for all but very young plants (as it is quite potent) it is especially good for leafy growth, so use it over the next few months to get your plants good and strong before they start fruiting.
Quick method - For a quick method, stuff one carrier bag of nettles in a bucket and steep in 2 litres of boiling water for up to an hour. Strain the leaves and stems out and toss in the compost bin. Dilute the fertiliser 1:10 and it’s ready for use. This quick method will give a weaker result than the slow method.
Slow method - Fill a bucket with the leaves and stems, bruising the foliage first. Weight down the nettles with a brick, large stone, or whatever you have around and then cover with water. Only fill three-quarters of the bucket with water to allow room for the foam that will be created during the brewing process.
Ideally you want to use non-chlorinated water (and preferably rain water). Set the bucket in a semi-sunny area, away from the house as the process is a tad smelly. Leave the mix for one to three weeks to ferment, stirring every few days, or when you remember.
Using the fertiliser - Finally, pour out the solution, minus the nettles (add the nettle dregs to the compost bin). Dilute at one part fertiliser to ten parts water for watering plants or 1:20 for direct foliar application. Any leftover undiluted mix makes an can be added to the compost bin to stimulate decomposition.
When using nettles as fertiliser, remember that some plants, like tomatoes and roses, do not enjoy the high iron levels in nettle fertiliser. This fertiliser works best on leafy plants and heavy feeders. Start with low concentrations and move on from there. Use some caution when using nettles as fertiliser since the mixture may still contain prickles!