Nettles are probably the first plant a child will identify and the last they’ll want to encounter again! The painful sting is a stronger identifier than shape, colour or form and a reminder to tread carefully when galavanting in shorts through the countryside!
They are one of the most common wild plants growing here in Ireland and can be easily found anywhere the soil is arable enough for life. Nettles are highly nutritious, and contain high levels of Vitamins A and C, calcium, protein and iron. The leaves, especially the top shots, are best in Spring time when they are less bitter. The plant has been a traditional Irish Spring tonic for centuries, although less so nowadays, and was used to help flush toxins from the system and cleanse the blood.
Before the introduction of cabbage and spinach in Ireland, about 200 years ago, the nettle was regularly used as a wild vegetable. A simple soup made from nettles called brotchán neanntóg (nettle soup) was a common Irish meal. The nettles were boiled in milk, with onions, oatmeal, butter and occasionally eggs. The nettles added much needed vitamins and minerals to the diet at a time of the year when people’s immune systems were at their lowest and variation in the diet was limited.
Along with the many health benefits of the leaves the fibrous stems was also used to make ropes and clothing.
Overall the humble nettle is a useful and extremely nourishing plant that has been forgotten and overlooked in favour of other supermarket greens. The cost and effort of producing, packaging, delivering and storing these greens seems ludicrous when a superior green such as the nettle is probably growing freely in your back yard!
For a savoury breakfast recipe idea for camping, check out our nettle porridge below!
Nettle Porridge with pearl barley and black pudding.
- A bunch of young stinging nettles ( roughly 150 – 200gms)
- 6 tablespoons of oatmeal
- 3 tablespoons of pearl barley
- 400ml – 500ml of vegetable stock (we used Boullion vegetable stock)
- 100g’s of black pudding (you can replace black pudding with bacon, salami or pepperoni)
- 20ml of olive oil or butter
Add olive oil or butter to a pre-heated pot or pan. Place the black pudding onto the heat and fry until done. Remove the black pudding and leave to one side. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a gentle boil, add washed nettle leaves to the pot. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove the nettles from the pot, chop into smaller pieces and leave to one side. Add the pearl barley to the pot of vegetable stock and nettle liquid. Simmer for a further 15 minutes or until the pearl barley is soft yet chewy. Add the oatmeal to the pot and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Stir in the chopped pre-cooked nettles and black pudding to the pot and allow to stand for a minute or two. Serve in a bowl with crusty bread!
For other wild food and camping recipes check out this link!