With Erica Neustadt of Change4 Chalfont
HAVE mixed feelings about stinging nettles, growing copiously at this time of the year. On the one hand they clearly want to take over the world if my back garden is anything to go by, and on the other they provide an excellent natural habitat, having taken many measures over recent years to make my garden a welcoming environment for wildlife it seems churlish to cut it down.
The stinging nettle, or Urtica dioica, being barbed, somewhat too pushy and usually unwelcome, is typically under-rated in the West, although our ancestors certainly recognised the nettle’s usefulness – along with hemp, its stalks have been processed to make fabric and cord for such things as bows, fishing nets, sails and clothing. It was used in this way from the Bronze Age up to about 100 years’ ago.
In fact, during the First World War, the German Empire used nettles as a substitute for cotton, using nettle fibre to make soldiers’ uniforms.