I recently went on a foraging course and have become fascinated by the varying uses of nettles. I'd heard of people making nettle soup and tea but it was all rather weird for me. However,  one recent evening, when I realised that the cupboard was empty, I thought I would go and collect some nettles, make some soup and give it a try. Nettles apparently contain more calcium than cheese, more iron than spinach, more Vit C than any other vegetable so what could be more nutritous. Being edible doesn't necessarly mean 'tasty' though but I was prepared to see for myself.

When collecting nettles you only pick the crown or top 6 leaves of the young plants. Nettles grow from Srping to Autumn so during this time there will always be new growth. I was careful to find fields or hedgrows where dogs won't have been or where pesticides won't have been used and also away from roads and dusty paths.

This then was my result and despite it's dubious appearance it really was truly delicious!

Nettle Soup

  • 150g of nettles picking the crown or top 6 leaves of young plants
  • 1 onion
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 leek or a handful of three cornered leek if they are in season
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1" of ginger
  • 1/2 chilli
  • a glug of oil
  • 1 litre of stock
  • salt and pepper to tast
  • single cream to taste


  • wash the nettles
  • chop the onion, celery, carrot, potato, garlic, chilli, ginger, leek if using
  • heat the oil and gently sweat the chopped vegetables
  • add the stock and simmer until the vegetables are nearly cooked then add the three cornered leeks
  • add the nettles 4-5 minutes before everything is ready
  • whizz up with a blender
  • season with salt and pepper
  • serve with a swirl of cream


We all know how nettles sting but only if you are meek about how you hold them. Grasp them tightly and with meaning and you'll get away with it, as expressed in this old adage.

Tender handed stoke a nettle,
And it stings you for your pains;
Grasp it like a man of mettle,
And it soft as silk remains.

In addition to the nutritional content  that I mentioned above, nettles also contain phosphorous, magnesium, beta-carotene, iodine and B complex. Nettles are high in salicic acid and nettle tea is meant to be a good to drink for rheumatic pains. Making a poultice out of the dried leaves was used for rheumtaic joints in the past and flogging  a rheumatic joint or tight muscle was known as 'urification'.

The seeds of the nettle plant were once considered to have aphrodisiac qualities but I'll leave that to you to find out if that's true or not.

Drying nettles takes away the sting affect and the leaves can be used for tea. Pour boiling water over 2-4 gms of dried leaves and leave to steep. The tea is supposed to ease rheumatic pain, fatigue or poor appetite. Drink 3 cups a day. NB. I haven't tried this myself so I can't comment as to its efficacy.

Dying Cloth. A green dye can be made from nettle leaves. In the Second World War many tonnes were gathered to make dye for camouflage nets. The roots can also be harvested to make a yellow dye.

Compost. Add nettles liberally to your compost bin. Cut them down and let them dry in the sun then move them to soil as a top dressing. You can also pack nettles into a bucket with a lid and add water. Leave for a few weeks, stirring occasionally to make a great liquid feed. Use it 1:10 with water for fertilising container and garden plants or at 1:5 for a spray for aphids and balckfly. Put the spent nettles on the compost.

It is not advisable to eat old leaves as they can cause kidney damage if the needles don't break down. Internal use of nettles can cause skin rashes and gastric inflammtion if taken over a long period. Avoid nettle treatments if taking medication for diabetes, high or low blood pressure, if pregnant or breast feeding

That's all for here but there's a whole websites on nettles if you are interested!

Last update: January 17, 2017