A lot of us are finding it difficult to get the ingredients which we normally enjoy to cook with. As I heard someone say on the radio, we are all going to have to get creative when it comes to how we cook and how we spend our time. So, over the weekend I started thinking about food that we might be able to find in our own gardens and back yards.

The one plant that immediately sprang to mind was the humble stinging nettle, as they are springing up all over the place at the moment. You might think, “Ugh! Horrible things!” It’s true that the nettle is seen as an annoying weed by gardeners, and no one likes to get stung by them while out walking or playing.

However, the leaves are full of goodness and are used as food by all sorts of creatures, including us humans!

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Nettles are packed full of vitamins: you’ll get vitamins A, C and K from them, as well as several B vitamins and also the minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and sodium. When cooked, the flavour nettles give is similar to spinach. (In fact, I think they are tastier than spinach as they have a slighty nutty flavour, they don’t go slimy like spinach leaves and they don’t leave that funny furry sensation in your mouth as cooked spinach does!) So, I thought I would go out into the garden and pick some to make soup.

Screenshot 2020-03-23 at 10.11.13It was delicious and creamy and the whole family gobbled it up! Here’s the recipe from my almanac, Nature Month-by-Month, in case you’d like to try it. (Although I have put this recipe in the April section of my book, I found that there were already lots of nettles sprouting in my garden. It didn’t take long for me to fill a carrier bag.)

Remember to wear gloves when picking the leaves. Also you must wash them thoroughly before you cook with them. I spun them in a salad spinner after washing to get rid of excess water.Screenshot 2020-03-23 at 10.20.35Here are a few extra facts about stinging nettles. The scientific name for them is Urtica dioica. This comes from the Latin word uro, which means “to burn” because the leaves can cause a temporary burning or stinging sensation when you touch them with bare skin.

The Ancient Egyptians used stinging nettles to treat arthritis and lower back pain. Roman soldiers rubbed the leaves on themselves to help stay warm!

Many common garden butterflies, such as the red admiral, comma and small tortoiseshell, lay eggs on stinging nettles.

So even if you don’t like the soup, maybe you’ll change your mind about the poor old stinging nettle now – not such an annoying weed after all!

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Nature Month-by-Month – a children’s almanac by Anna Wilson, illustrated by Elly Jahnz is published by Nosy Crow and The National Trust and is available to order online.

Your independent bookshop can take orders over the phone and post books out to you, too. Give them a call!

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