It is Nettle Season!

Nettles are my favorite smoothie greens and are wonderful in tea and cooked in soup, quiche, stir fries and vegetable dishes. They can be dried or frozen for use later in the year.

They contain vitamins A, C, D E, iron, calcium, copper, and potassium, as well as 21 to 23 percent crude protein, 3 to 5 percent crude fats, 35 to 39 percent non-nitrogen extracts, 9 to 21 percent crude fiber, and 19 to 29 percent ash. They have been popular in beer making since the 17th century.

Nettles are a wonderful wildlife plant as well. Aphids love nettles and will use them as shelter. By planting nettles you can create an aphid trap and provide a food source for lady beetles and other wildlife species which prey on aphids.

The nettles can also act as a sacrificial plant by luring the aphids away from the vegetable garden. There are many species of butterflies and moths which use nettles as a host plant, some of which exclusively use nettle.

Among North American species are the

  • Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta), which exclusively feeds on nettles as a larva,
  • Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis),
  • Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui),
  • Satyr Comma (Polygonia satyrus),
  • Milbert’s Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis milberti)
  • Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma)
  • Hypena californica.

Many beneficial insects are also attracted to the Stinging Nettle including hoverflies, lacewings and parasitic wasps.