I've been busy today making nettle cordial. It's very simple to make and has an interesting green, earthy taste. Apparently it is good for the stomach and for arthritis. There are lots of different recipes, some more complicated than others, so I just adapted them and made my own:
- 200 ml water
- 200g caster sugar
- 200g young stinging nettle (common nettle, urtica dioica) tops, washed - pick about a carrier bag full - wear gloves!
- a wedge of lemon
- Make a syrup by bringing to the boil the water and sugar.
- Blanch the nettle tops for a short while with the lemon wedge and about a tablespoonful of extra water until they go like cooked spinach.
- Chop them up in the pan using kitchen scissors
- Add the syrup, stir, cover and leave to cool, stirring occasionally.
- Strain the liquid off into a bowl and then bottle.
- Keep in fridge - don't know how long it will keep.
- Serve diluted to taste with sparkling water.
Nettles need soil rich in phosphates and so they like to grow near human habitations, near animal pens, graveyards, compost heaps, bonfire sites etc. Patches of them are very good indicators of ancient human settlements. You can boil up the young leaves and eat them like spinach, or make them into a quiche. As country children we often had painful encounters with them and swore by rubbing on a dock leaf to cure the itch and sting.