Nettles are a nutritious and versatile wild food. Here we make a delicious Stinging Nettle Cordial, one of my favourite nettle recipes.
Google the health benefits of eating stinging nettles, and you will find the most incredible list of diseases and complaints that this plant is said to treat — everything from hay-fever and arthritis to supporting menopause and detoxifying the body.
Of course, many of the claims are anecdotal. But there is also some robust research out there that backs up some of the suggested benefits.
Nettles grow across much of the world, and archaeological evidence here in the UK shows that we have been eating the plant since prehistoric times, with ‘Nettle Pudding’ laying claim to being Britain’s oldest recipe.
Nettles are certainly nutritionally dense, containing a wide range of vitamins and minerals, as well as plenty of protein and fibre.
All this sounds great, and we even have patches of nettles growing in our garden, but persuading my kids that they are going to start eating nettle soup a couple of times a week is not so easy.
In my experience, introducing new foods is a lot easier if it a. tastes great, and b. the kids can relate it to things they already know and love. This cordial is perfect for introducing nettles to the family as a food stuff, another great example is our easy stinging nettle crisps.
This nettle cordial recipe, from the book ‘The Eatweeds Cookbook’ by Robin Harford is delicious and the perfect way to introduce kids to nettles as a wild food.
What You Need To Make Delicious Stinging Nettle Cordial
- 200g freshly picked nettle tops
- 1kg granulated sugar
- 40g Citric Acid
- 500mls boiling water
- sterilised bottles
How to collect nettles.
I collect nettle tops in freezer type bags.
Wearing gloves, I use scissors to cut off the top portion of the nettles and let them drop straight into the bags. This method works great. – I don’t get stung, it doesn’t take long to collect them, and it makes weighing them easy. Imagine a 100g bag of spinach as a rough guide to how much to collect in each bag.
I wash the nettles thoroughly and have a good look at the leaves to check I haven’t included any other plants by mistake.
The recipe suggests using a salad spinner to dry the leaves which I do.
How to make stinging nettle cordial
Combine the sugar, citric acid and water in a large saucepan and heat it to 60 C, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Remove the syrup from the heat, throw in the stinging nettles, and give them a thorough mix to ensure all the leaves get covered with the liquid.
Cover and leave for a week, giving the mixture a good stir each day. As the week goes on the nettles will look more and more macerated and slimy.
After a week, strain the nettles (I use a sieve lined with muslin) and bottle in sterilised bottles. Remember to let your glass cool for a few minutes before adding the cold cordial, or you may end up with it cracking.
The first time I made stinging nettle cordial I also came up with a use for the left-over nettle residue. I use it in our original recipe for nettle fruit leather. The nettles pair perfectly with the apple and pear, and the kids love this healthy snack.
How does stinging nettle cordial taste?
Stinging nettle cordial tastes delicious. It has a beautiful amber colour, is syrupy and tastes not quite like anything I have tried before.
Hubby describes its flavour as a bit like peaches with a hint of elderflower; I think it tastes a little like lychees and sherbet.
Stinging nettle cordial should be stored in the fridge and will last for a few weeks
For more foraging inspiration, check out our other wild food recipes. We’ve shared some of our favourites below.
Raw rosehip syrup is a no-cook rosehip syrup recipe that uses sugar to draw the juice from the fruit resulting in a thick, delicious syrup.
Beech Leaf Noyau is a traditional liqueur made from young leaves of the Beech tree. Gather the leaves while they are soft and sticky and have a translucent, delicate look to them. At this stage, the leaves taste citrusy when chewed and are also be eaten as a salad leaf.
I show you how to collect and use wild, natural yeast to make an easy Sourdough starter for baking your own delicious and healthy Levain bread.
When I set out to create this Himalayan Balsam Gin recipe I had no idea of the surprise that was lying in wait for me. Read on to discover how to make a genuinely magical colour changing gin infusion.
Here we share our wonderful Meadowsweet Cordial recipe. Meadowsweet is a beautiful herb, with a delicate fragrance and is the original source of Aspirin.