Category Archives: nettles

in love with weeds


Weeds are such a joy! These irrepressible wild plants aren’t simply agents of anarchy, they are tools of healing.

One of their functions is to restore balance: Ground that is severely compacted will attract weeds with deep tap roots that help to break up the clay pan. Topsoil that is deficient in a particular mineral will sprout weeds that are especially efficient in drawing up trace amounts of that very mineral from deeper levels and secreting it in the body of the plant so that when the weed returns to the ground at the end of its life cycle it enriches the soil, helping to provide the elements it is lacking in.

Every weed has a purpose. Well, multiple purposes really. It returns elements to the soil that the soil is deficient in. It provides habitats and sustenance for the myriad tiny insects that are so crucial to the ongoing viability of our biosphere; and it provides a home for some of the countless tiny lifeforms, bacteria, fungi, and suchlike, that all higher forms of life depend on for their survival. And each of these wild plants fills a unique niche in our world.

Many weeds have medicinal qualities and quite a few are edible, capable of providing super doses of the nutrients our bodies need when we become willing to drop our conditioned prejudices.

In earlier stages of our evolution we knew these things, but we have become so dissociated from the Earth that we no longer perceive these connections.

Living in a wild rural area I used to feel weeds as a burden. The blackberry that swallowed up garden shrubs. The yarrow that kept determinedly pushing up everywhere and flowering profusely. And then there were the dandelions, and the mullein, and the dock, and the thistles and the nettles… They seemed to represent an overwhelming garden chore that needed to be attended to and ate up precious time. But as I came to understand more about these wild plants and to see the possibilities they provided my resistance to them melted away. I began to see that they were a real gift if I chose to make the best of them.

Now I rejoice when I see the nettle return in early spring. I know that as well as enriching the soil it can serve as an activator for my many compost heaps, or a wonderful fertiliser for my garden plants. I can make a refreshing tea from its leaves or use them as an iron-rich vegetable: Just blanch the leaves in boiling water for a minute or to to remove the sting and you have a power potion. Or make it into pesto! Delicious!

I’ve come to treasure the dandelions, providing them with habitats where they are protected from the rabbits (who love them too!) The leaves and roots are a well known tonic for the liver and both the flowers and the young leaves make tasty additions to my spring and summer salads. Best of all they require no work at all, obligingly self-sowing each year.

The non-edible weeds I chip or compost, knowing that they will provide nutrients that are precisely attuned to my particular garden.

But the magic doesn’t end there: When you’ve lived in a place for a while and made a deep connection with it, you’ll find that the weeds that spring up aren’t just for the garden. It is as if Nature begins to see you as part of the eco-system too, and it encourages those plants that will help to rectify imbalances in your body. So watch carefully what wild plants spring up in your garden. There may be a message there for you!