Time for a tale
This is one of my favourite stories and it does involve nettles!
Introducing the nettle
Why encourage nettles?
How many of you can see nettles in the garden or on a regular walk?
How many of you have been stung?
Why d’you think nettles have stings?
I don’t have the answer, but I do know that the stinging nettle deters grazers such as sheep and cows which gives the insects who live on them a greater chance of survival 🙂
So how can nettles benefit us?
Nettles are very nutritious, high in iron and Vitamin A – more info here: https://www.leaf.tv/6653042/nutrition-of-stinging-nettles/
… but what do you pick?
The leaves can make a nice tea, or be used like spinach, but how?:
The flowerheads of the nettles can be removed:
Put the nettle heads, discarded leaves and stems in water, cover and stir daily. After a few days you will have a concentrated plant food for your veg and fruit. Add a little food to each refill of your watering can and watch your plants grow!
For centuries nettles have been harvested for their strong, versatile fibre – this is found in the stem of the plant.
How do you harvest the fibre?
Watch the videos below to find out more 🙂
The nettle stem
Uses for nettle fibre:
Remove the leaves – with gloves or scissors:
Remove hairs and outer skin
Create a bracelet
Nettles and wildlife
In the UK, nettles support over 40 different species of insect – for some the plant is a source of food, and for others, nettles are their home.
The Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly
This beauty lays its eggs on nettle leaves. Around 200 eggs are encased in a protective web and hidden from sight in a nettle leaf:
As the caterpillars hatch they begin to chaw their nursery leaf and the others roundabout, leaving a scattering of tiny black pellets, which you might see if you look closely:
Once they’ve eaten, they’ll have another wee snooze, once more wrapping themselves up in a protective web:
The caterpillars grow and eat:
And over the weeks become a black swarming mass writhing around the nettle bed:
Once they have matured, the caterpillars will go and find a solitary place to pupate and will finally emerge as the bonny small tortoiseshell 🙂
I hope this post will encourage you to look a bit closer at this wonderful plant – see what insects you can spot and enjoy some of its nutritious leaves 🙂