I enjoy this delicious, summer drink and other people who have never tried it are just ‘amazed’ at the refreshing taste. You will need:Nettle beer
- 2 lbs of young nettle tops
- 2 lemons
- 1 gallon of water
- I lb of Demerara sugar
- 1 oz Cream of Tartar
- Brewers’ Yeast
Prepare the nettle tops as for the soup by washing and sorting. Put them into a large saucepan with the water and thinly peeled rinds of lemon. Bring to the boil and simmer for fifteen to 20 minutes. Strain the mix onto the sugar and stir to dissolve. Add the Cream of Tartar and leave the mix to cool to yeast temperature. Add the yeast and lemon juice.
Cover the mix and leave it somewhere warm for three days – its OK to put it into a demijohn at this stage or to use a fermentation bucket if you are making more than a gallon. Then let it cool down for a few days to knock the yeast back. You can bottle it now but be prepared to use old cider bottles or something strong as the mix can be explosive.
I have even made nettle beer with white sugar and baking yeast and it is delicious, although it does need racking off a bit more. Remember that this drink is not a wine but a fizzy summer drink – it is not really meant to be kept although I have a bottle that is 8 months old and still tasty, even noticeably alcoholic. If this drink loses its fizz or is drunk by elderly relatives, children or drivers, it can be diluted with soda, tonic water or lemonade.
Drying nettles stops the sting effect and the leaves can then be stored and used for tea.
Prepare the nettle leaves as for the soup and leave them out in the sun to dry, in a container with sides so they don’t blow away! They can also be dried inside over a radiator or near a stove, but turn them regularly and make sure that no rot sets in. Store them in a moisture-proof jar out of sunlight.
To make a nettle tea, pour boiling water over 2 – 4 grams of the dried herb and leave to steep. To ease rheumatic pain, fatigue or poor appetite, drink three cups a day.
The leaves do not have top be dried to make a tea – it can also be made from fresh leaves. The leaves and roots are also crushed to produce fresh juices. It is also possible to take this herb in capsules, as a dry extract or as a tincture.
I have tried this several times. Simply gather some prime young leaves, crush them with a rolling pin and mix them in with vodka, shaking occasionally for two weeks or more. The tincture can then be diluted in water as a treatment. Mine never makes it this beyond two weeks since I have run out of vodka by then and it makes a fantastic flavoured and scented vodka and tonic.
Dying Cloth with nettles
A green dye can be made from the leaves of the nettle plant. In the Second World War many tons were gathered to make dye for camouflage nets. The roots can also be harvested to make a yellow die.
Nettle dressing and liquid feed
Add nettles liberally to your compost bin. Cut them down and let them dry in the sun, then move them to soil as a top dressing. You can also pack nettles into a bucket with a lid and add water. Leave it for a few weeks, stirring occasionally to make a great liquid feed. Use it 1: 10 with water for fertilising container and garden plants or at 1:5 for a spray for aphids and blackfly. Put the spent nettles onto the compost.
Nettles and Nature
There are several creatures who manage to circumvent the stingers in nettles and to them, nettles are a sole source of food. Caterpillars of some of the most beautiful butterflies feast on nettles which is why it is important to cultivate a patch in your garden. The Red Admiral, the Peacock, the Small Tortoiseshell, the Map Butterfly and others all feast on nettles.
Young spring nettles also provide a useful food source for goslings and ducklings.