I could write a book about nettle. It has so many uses and is actually very tasty, you just need to try our nettle soup in the Spring to taste its goodness!
We grow and encourage our nettle population at the Secret Garden. They are, for me, the voice to exclaim that the full flow of plants has arrived and harvest season is here. The nettles come out in abundance and the best flavours come from young, fresh, leaf tips as they are full of crisp and complex flavours. I always show people how to harvest them. I will use no gloves and yes, they do sting, but in Spring it is more like a tingle and it helps me feel connected with my surroundings and the plant herself. Fortunately though, this is not a rule on harvesting nettles and to date only one volunteer has harvested the nettles the way I do.
In our drying room, we experience the most vibrant green from our nettles, and it is easy to see why they were used as a dye and for making rope among many other things. Not only is nettle tasty and good for you, but wildlife love nettles; small tortoiseshell caterpillars and peacock butterflies use them as foodplants; ladybirds feast on the aphids that shelter among them; and seed eating birds enjoy their autumn spoils. Nettles are a must for any garden.
They also create beautiful cucumber like flavours in our gin. Our distiller, Mark, loves the flavour and how well it combines with Juniper however he isn’t so keen on putting them in the still as they do sting when dry!