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Wonderful wild greens

By Heather 9 years ago

Hurrah, at last it's that time of year for wonderful wild herbs!

I picked stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) for the first time just a couple of years ago and have since made the most delicious soups and risottos from them. A good pair of gloves is required and it's important to only pick the fresh young leaves as the stalks can be tough and stringy. Blanching them in boiling water takes the sting out of the leaves, then they can just be treated like spinach. But they are so much richer in protein, with twice as much compared to spinach, and six times more Vitamin C. And best of all I don't even have to leave my garden to find them!

Wild garlic or ramsoms (Allium ursinum) is another favourite. Compared to the banks of wild garlic I saw over Easter weekend at the Lost Gardens of Heligan, which were all in bloom, here in Herefordshire they are still young and at their best for picking. My friend Bella recommends eating them raw in buttered white bread for a full flavour experience, while I like them in omelettes and stir fries. Cooking Weeds by Vivien Weise is packed with recipes for tasty wild greens, like Stinging Nettle Rissoles and Wild Garlic Tsatsiki. Yummy!

Right. I'm off to woods to find some some more food for free ...

Not so nasty nettles

By Heather 10 years ago

Most people consider nettles to be a complete nuisance and remember them for one thing and one thing only – their vicious sting!

However nettles (or stinging nettles) have many hidden qualities. Did you know?

  • They are one of the most mineral and vitamin rich weeds and, when cooked, lose their sting.

  • The undersides of nettle leaves are a favoured spot for ladybirds to lay their eggs in spring. Ladybird larvae, as per the picture below, are voracious feeders and like nothing better than eating aphids. Adult ladybirds overwinter somewhere sheltered (sometimes inside buildings) and providing a bug box will help them survive the worst of the weather.

  • The fibres from the woody stems can be used to make cloth, paper and rope.

  • You can extract dyes from nettles and they were used, as late as the Second World War, to make camouflage materials.
Links to interesting nettle articles: National Be Nice to Nettles Week (14-25 May), Risotto of Nettles and Wild Herbs, 101 Uses for Stinging Nettles