Now is the time for spring greens including nettles, chickweed and other fresh bitter flavoured wild herbs.
Urtica dioica, often called common nettle, stinging nettle (although not all plants of this species sting) or nettle leaf, is a herbaceous perennial flowering plant in the family Urticaceae. It is native to Europe, Asia, northern Africa, and western North America, and introduced elsewhere. The species is divided into six subspecies, five of which have many hollow stinging hairs called trichomes on the leaves and stems, which act like hypodermic needles, injecting histamine and other chemicals that produce a stinging sensation when contacted by humans and other animals. The plant has a long history of use as a source of medicine, food, and fibre.
Urtica dioica is a dioecious, herbaceous, perennial plant, 1 to 2 m (3 to 7 ft) tall in the summer and dying down to the ground in winter. It has widely spreading rhizomes and stolons, which are bright yellow, as are the roots. The soft, green leaves are 3 to 15 cm (1 to 6 in) long and are borne oppositely on an erect, wiry, green stem. The leaves have a strongly serrated margin, a cordate base, and an acuminate tip with a terminal leaf tooth longer than adjacent laterals. It bears small, greenish or brownish, numerous flowers in dense axillary inflorescences. The leaves and stems are very hairy with nonstinging hairs, and in most subspecies, also bear many stinging hairs (trichomes), whose tips come off when touched, transforming the hair into a needle that can inject several chemicals: acetylcholine, histamine, 5-HT (serotonin), moroidin, leukotrienes, and possibly formic acid. This mixture of chemical compounds causes a painful sting or paresthesia from which the species derives one of its common names, stinging nettle, as well as the colloquial names burn nettle, burn weed, and burn hazel.
U. dioica has a flavour similar to spinach mixed with cucumber when cooked, and is rich in vitamins A and C, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium. Young plants were harvested by Native Americans and used as a cooked plant in spring when other food plants were scarce. Soaking stinging nettles in water or cooking removes the stinging chemicals from the plant, which allows them to be handled and eaten without injury. After the stinging nettle enters its flowering and seed-setting stages, the leaves develop gritty particles called cystoliths, which can irritate the urinary tract. In its peak season, nettle contains up to 25% protein, dry weight, which is high for a leafy green vegetable. The leaves are also dried and may then be used to make a herbal tea, as can also be done with the nettle’s flowers.
Nettles are sometimes used in cheesemaking, for example in the production of Cornish Yarg and as a flavouring in varieties of Gouda.
Nettles are used in Albania as part of the dough filling for the börek. Its name is byrek me hithra. The top baby leaves are selected and simmered, then mixed with other ingredients such as herbs and rice, before being used as a filling between dough layers. Similarly, in Greece the tender leaves are often used, after simmering, as a filling for hortopita, which is similar to spanikopita, but with wild greens rather than spinach for filling.
As Old English stiðe, nettle is one of the nine plants invoked in the pagan Anglo-Saxon Nine Herbs Charm, recorded in the 10th century. Nettle was believed to be a galactagogue, a substance that promotes lactation.
Urtication, or flogging with nettles, is the process of deliberately applying stinging nettles to the skin in order to provoke inflammation. An agent thus used is known as a rubefacient (something that causes redness). This is done as a folk remedy for treatment of rheumatism.
Textiles and fibre
Nettle stems contain a bast fibre that has been traditionally used for the same purposes as linen and is produced by a similar retting process. Unlike cotton, nettles grow easily without pesticides. The fibres are coarser, however.
Historically, nettles have been used to make clothing for 2,000 years, and German Army uniforms were almost made from nettle during World War I due to a potential shortage of cotton.
Nettles may be used as a dye-stuff, producing yellow from the roots, or yellowish green from the leaves.
ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
Join us for our AGM on Sunday March 26th 1 – 2pm
Find out about what we’ve been up to over the last year and come and hear about exciting plans for 2017. We’ll also be electing new steering group members*
We’ve invited Kate Sebag of Brockwell Community Greenhouses to come and talk about their successful community garden in Brockwell Park.
A celebratory feast for everyone who has been involved or hopes to find out more about what we do. Bring a dish to share and get to know the neighbours.
Seed bomb workshop
Lets fill our neighbourhood with wildflowers for bees and pollinators. Come and help us make loads of seed bombs and take them away to guerilla garden.
For more info
*We are looking for new steering group members. If you have skills you can offer, including strategic planning, financial, and marketing, please get in touch.
We have a short term role for a community gardener who’s great with people and food growing.
The application details and role are here
Please note application ends noon, friday 10th March.
Herb Tuesdays is back for 2017. We’ve crept through a damp winter, sustaining ourselves on hot soup and tea.
Now spring is on its way and days are lengthening, we’re back to our usual opening hours of 11 – 4pm with a shared lunch at 1.
Come and join us, everyone (over 18) welcome to grow, make, tidy, sort, chat, shovel, sow, sift, clear, plant, prune, learn and dig, and much more!
Become a buddy volunteer and help support others in accessing the garden. Application details here
The workshop is designed to give participants the knowledge of how to problem solve, design and build. Leaving participants with the skills and confidence to tackle most carpentry jobs around the garden.
We will be building wooden frame covers for our raised beds that use basic tools such as a tape measure, technical drawing, square, pencil, saw clamp, cordless drill and paint brush.
Please wear clothes that can get dirty or paint on.
Please book tickets here
BOOK TICKETS HERE FOR FREE.
In this two hour workshop we will explore some of the design principles that can help us create low-maintenance edible landscapes using perennial fruit and vegetables. These edible landscapes, on a larger scale also forest gardens, can provide food, but also other resources such as timber and firewood as well as valuable habitat for wildlife.
You will learn about the benefits of perennial vegetables, the nutrient cycle in food production and how we can use and support it. You will get hands on experience and learn practical skills, such as planning and designing a plot and preparing it for planting, propagation of perennial crops and pruning of soft fruit bushes.
By the end of the workshop you will feel inspired to introduce some new varieties of plants into your garden, make less work and more yield for yourself and the environment.
Date: 30th of October
Time: 10.30am promt start (gate opens 10am)
Our yearly celebration welcoming everyone to the garden to play, eat, talk, enjoy and try out new activities. There is a family focus this year but everyone is welcome to come and enjoy the space, eat cake and pizza and lots more. See you there!
Come and join us!
Want to help us support our amazing volunteers?
Organised, inspired and passionate about community, growing, local food, sustainability and more?
Part time job as our volunteer coordinator march – october 1 day per week.