I grow great nettles and have always seen them as a nuisance in the garden the way they viciously grab your fingers as you delve weeding between plants.
I heard some years ago that you only have nettles if you have good soil so thought that was the only consolation, until a holiday in Devon some years ago and a friend made me nettle soup.
We gathered sappy young nettles from the hedgerows and the soup was so delicious and colourful I now appreciate my nettles for what they can do for me.
For the nettle soup I gently fry some onion and garlic in a little oil until softened but not brown.
Add some cubed potato and a quantity of chicken or vegetable stock.
Simmer until the potato is cooked.
Blanch a few gloved handfuls of the sappy nettle leaves and stems in boiling water.
Just pouring over boiling water from the kettle is enough to kill the sting.
Add the nettles to the stock, don't cook any further just blend together until smooth, I use a stick mixer for this. The colour is fantastic.
Rewarm if necessary season well with salt, pepper and a little grated nutmeg if you wish and put into bowls for a delicious and healthy soup.
I added sour cream. Yoghurt would be healthier but not as delicious..
Nettles are reputed to have wonderful health properties, are packed full of vitamins and minerals and protein and a cure for many ills. I just enjoy this free food from my own garden.
Nettle liquid manure
The other thing nettles are good for is to make a liquid infusion for your plants.
This way all those wonderful minerals are returned to the soil.
I soak the woody ends not used for soup plus any other nettles I can find in a bucket of water.
I usually add some sheep manure too.
Leave for a week or so and strain off. Dilute to the colour of weak tea and feed over and around your leafy green plants.