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Simon's Blog - Be Nice To Nettles Week

Nettles in Sussex Photo: Siobhan Hart

To many of us they’re a troublesome weed and a bit of a pain if you happen to run into one but the humble nettle is not all bad and this week we're being urged to appreciate them.

So what's so good about nettles then?

Well firstly they support over 40 species of birds, insects and butterflies and they're also a big favourite with ladybirds who like nothing more than laying their eggs in them. As any gardener will tell you ladybirds are great to have around as they eat a whole load of pests like whitefly, aphids and the red spider mite.

Speaking of eating and if you're brave enough to eat nettles they're good for us. They're packed with the essential minerals iron, magnesium and calcium and they also help if you've got gout!

Although you can take it too far.

The Stinging Nettle Eating Contest takes place every year in Dorset. The brave (foolish?) contestants who enter are given two foot long stalks of stinging nettles and then have an hour to eat as many leaves as possible. Sounds easy? Well bear it mind that it's the stalk and the underside of the leaves where the stings are! Mouth numbing substances are not permitted, although a swig of beer in between mouthfuls is allowed. The winner is the person who after 60 agonising minutes has the longest length of empty stalk!

So some nettle food for thought there but to find out more I went to meet Mike Russell at the Sussex Wildlife Trust.

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