Nettles are one of the most useful of plants, despite their protective sting. The young tops are delicious and nutritious, a natural vitamin and mineral supplement. Medicinally, the leaves, seeds and roots are used to treat a wide range of conditions including anaemia, arthritis, asthma, burns, eczema, infections, inflammations, kidney stones, prostate enlargement, rheumatism and urinary problems.
Nettles can also be used to make rope, nets, a linen-like cloth and paper, a dye, insect repellant and green manure.
Sauté 1 or 2 chopped onions in a little ghee, butter or olive oil until the onions are lightly browned. Add about a litre of water or vegetable stock, and several handfuls of fresh nettle tops. Simmer gently for 10 or 15 minutes, then purée with a hand blender and serve. You can add nutmeg, pepper or other spices to taste. Then add cream, potatoes, sorrel or whatever you like – the possible variations are endless.