Nettles are considered by many to be a pesky weed, taking up space in the garden with their spiky, purple flowers. However, there is more to this sharp, unassuming plant than meets the eye! The Lamium species, which have the common name of nettles, include about 50 different types of plants in the Lamiaceae family and have a plethora of unexpected uses. These early spring weeds can be saved and used for food, medicine and so much more. Here are 10 ways to use the dead nettle and stinging nettle crowding your garden!
1. Throat Soother
Dead nettle, which is in the mint family, is distinguished by its square stem, fuzzy leaves, and purplish tops with small pink flowers. If you see this hearty weed growing in your garden, don't immediately weed it out! Dead nettle can be used as cough drop or throat spray, combatting a sore, scratchy or itchy throat just like store-bought medicines do.
2. Salve & Balm
Along with soothing the throat, purple dead nettle, which is also called red dead nettle, is known among herbalists for being astringent, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial. Scientifically called Lamium purpureum, of the genus Urtica, the leaves of this species are perfect for healing wounds and cuts. You can easily make a DIY herbal salve to put on scrapes or small cuts using the dead nettle growing in your yard.
3. Nettle Soup
Nettle is also an edible plant, used in a variety of recipes. Wild edible nettle grows in many yards and fields, never realizing its potential as a delicious ingredient! For nettle soup, you need at least 200 g of fresh nettle tips, but some recipes call for more. Then, you can add it to potatoes, stock, or whatever strikes your fancy! Here's a delicious stinging nettle soup recipe.
4. Nettle Salad
This wild food is also a tasty addition to salads, fulfilling the same purpose that spinach does. Many use nettle's green leaves in place of spinach to change it up or make use of the ubiquitous weed growing their gardens. Nettle is also full of health benefits, supporting healthy skin and hair with its natural silicic acid. This nettle salad recipe combines stinging nettles with nuts, garlic and lemon juice, but this wild edible plant makes a yummy combo with many different flavors.
5. Nettle Tincture
Nettle is often made into a tincture as a way to enjoy its many health benefits. Stinging nettle is beloved for its ability to strengthen the immune, improve kidney health, support the respiratory tract, and combat seasonal allergies. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, nettle is the perfect solution to hayfever and other allergies that arise in late spring and early summer. If this sounds like something you need, search for nettle in areas with moist soil and full sun, especially along rivers and streams. Here's a recipe to use your foraged dead nettle!
6. Wild Nettle Tea
Another popular use of nettle that is both culinary and medicinal is making nettle tea. This tea is known to combat eczema, asthma, hay fever and muscle aches. Just collect some dead nettle plants, remove the tips, and steep them in boiling water. Remove the tips when the water becomes green to avoid an overly bitter taste, and add honey if the flavor is still too bitter. Here's a more detailed recipe for wild nettle tea!
7. Friend of Pollinators
Nettle plants are not only beneficial to humans- they're necessary for many insects' survival! Nettles are the main source of food for many caterpillars, which prevents the caterpillars from munching on other plants in your garden. Nettles are also a popular place for ladybirds to lay eggs, which turn into larvae that eat many garden pests like aphids and mites. Along with this, bees love nettles even more than dandelions, so having them in your garden will give bees a place to pollinate to their hearts' content.
8. Nettle Beer
One of the best ways to use nettle is to make nettle beer with it! You only need five ingredients for this healthy and yummy drink, and it can be ready in a matter of days. Nettle beer tastes sweet and is similar to cider in texture and flavor. For fans of natural beverages, this is one of the tastiest and easiest options! Here's an easy and tasty nettle beer recipe.
9. Natural Composter
Composting is one of the simplest ways to live more sustainably, but many people don't know where to start. Adding a natural activator is one way to speed up the process of decomposition, making the process more efficient. Simply pick wild nettles, chop them up, and mix them into your compost pile. This works best if the nettles are mixed in with lots of different materials and levels of moisture.
10. Chicken Feed
Nettles are not only a wild food for humans, they work great for chickens! Both purple dead nettle and henbit dead nettle, also called Lamium amplexicaule, are excellent chicken food. Similar to chickweed and other weeds used for this purpose, nettle serves as a nutritious food for chickens, and they love it!