Here are some traditional recipes using nettles from Kent in the south east of England.
Nettles and other plants were once used to flavour beers of different kinds. Apparently, it is still possible to buy nettle beer in the north of England.
Juice and thinly pared rind of two lemons
2lb young nettle tops, washed and drained
1 gallon water
1lb Demerara sugar
1oz cream of tartar
Bring the water to the boil in a preserving pan and add the nettles. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add the lemon rind, lemon juice and sugar, and leave to cool. Stir in the yeast. Allow to stand for three days before straining into a demi-john. This will be ready to drink in a week.
Norton Nettle Soup
Nettles have been eaten for many centuries, and can still be used in place of spinach in many recipes. They are a rich source of calcium, magnesium and iron, and of course, lose their sting when cooked.
Fry the bacon and celery together until tender. Add the cabbage fry for two minutes. Pour in the stock, pile in the nettles and simmer for another four minutes. Garnish with crme fresh to serve.
The place name Nettlestead means a place where nettles grow’, so it is not too far-fetched to imagine the inhabitants making this soup in the spring.
4 pints nettle tops
1 onions, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
2 pints home-made chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons crme fraiche
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Celery leaves to garnish
Using a large pan, cook the onion gently for five minutes, and then add the carrot, celery and garlic. Continue to fry until soft. Meanwhile, wash the nettle tops thoroughly. Add the stock and the nettles to the pan and bring them to the boil. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, until the nettles are tender, then season with salt and pepper. Puree the soup in a liquidiser and return it to a clean pan. Stir in the crme fraiche and reheat gently. Garnish with celery leaves.