In a desperate attempt to relieve myself of hay fever symptoms I decided to head to my local country park to gather fresh nettles - a known remedy for pollen allergies.
Stinging nettles conjures up a nasty childhood memory for me, of kicking a ball about in the park and falling into a prickly bed of nettles. I walked away in floods of tears, covered in big red sores. I was a cocky little rascal back then, but being stung all over made me a little subdued for a while.
According to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall you want to aim for the the young crop of March and April. (But taking into consideration this year's long winter, early May should be sufficient). Remember to wear gardening gloves when handling this treacherous weed. I felt like a bit of a lunatic snipping away at nettles in the park but after experimenting with this wild plant the stealthiness was worth it.
Nettles make great tisane; best served with camomile and (local) honey. Just the tonic for hay fever woes. A few sprigs of nettles gently washed, stalks and all in a tea pot, with a tea bag or two of camomile and honey to taste. Nettles have a similar taste to spinach. Sounds like a peculiar taste for tea but it strangely works.
In my nettle appreciation frenzy, I also made soup. With celery, leeks, onion, garlic, vegetable stock, yogurt and of course some nettles. It was delicious.
I have discovered some amazing facts about nettles that you may not know;
There is a week dedicated to nettles called 'Be nice to nettles week' which falls on 15 - 26 May 2013. Check out the website for events and fun facts.
Butterflies depend on nettles for the growth of their larvae.
They are packed with magnesium, iron and calcium, all the essential minerals for healthy humans.
The fibre of nettles can be spun into string to form fabric or paper.
So, please give nettles a chance, a lot more utile than meets the eye. I'll leave you with an old English rhyme that gives the reader good advice on how to handle nettles;
Tender-handed, stroke a nettle,
And it stings you for your pains.
Grasp it like a man of mettle,
And it soft as silk remains.