As spring thoroughly forges ahead, the newest, tenderest shoots are often the fodder of deer and rabbits. But back in March on Forest School, we decided to make use of some rather more volatile ones for ourselves...
Stinging Nettles (Urtica Dioica) are a common feature of our countryside, favouring nutrient rich soil. Whether you like them or loath them, they are a particularly useful plant not just for the fauna that uses them (Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Comma & Peacock butterflies all rely on the leaves for their caterpillars to eat!) but also humans have used the plant for consumption and medicinally in tinctures, but also practically in the creation of twines and ropes from the stems.
On Forest School, we opted to use them to create some rather delicious tea. With the children gloved (some opted to try and pick them without which I thought was super brave!) were set to task to pick the young stinging nettles tips from far reaching places in the paddock. There was definitely no shortage, as areas where brambles had been removed left open spaces for nettles to thrive. With the collection jug full, we brought them back to the cabin to sort through and then lit our Kelly Kettle which the children helped to maintain. Hot water was then poured over the nettles and a little honey and the mix left to brew for a short while. Once cool, the children not only got to enjoy the tea, but also have a try of the blanched nettles as well. It wasn't everyone's cup of tea (pun fully intended) but the majority of children really enjoyed it.
I really enjoy these sessions as it never gets old being able to show the children that you can actually eat stinging nettles! A few did try a few raw under my watchful eye! And yes a few children did sting themselves but what I tend to find is that becasue the children are picking them volutarily, they are aware of the consequences and if it deos happen, it's not such a surprise. With the activity over, the children then had the run of the paddock once again, to soak up the sunshine and run, jump and play with their friends.
Later in the week we also decided to go further afield in our foraging pursuits and headed to the Brook! Again, nettles were found, picked, cooked and enjoyed, fuelling the children's further exploration of the water's edge and hidden hedgerow hollows. A really lovely week!
Thanks for reading!