Friday, 11 March 2016

Stinging Nettles are a very useful edible plant

The Stinging Nettle (a poem rescued from the defunct Bubblews)

Stinging Nettles (Photo: Public Domain)

Most people think that nettles are just nasty weeds,
But actually they are the plants that a butterfly caterpillar needs,
For the larvae of the red admiral and the small tortoiseshell too,
They eat the leaves of this plant; it is what they must do.
The peacock butterfly is another that depends upon this weed,
It is what its little ones have to have to feed.
And people can eat stinging nettles too cooked in water in a pan,
They lose all their stinging power, so you can enjoy them, yes, you can.
Or nettles can be employed to make a herbal tea,
Full of minerals and vitamins and good for you and me!

Steve Andrews

Nettles as a food source

Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) lose their sting when cooked and are a good example of nutritious "spring greens" that can be easily foraged for. The young shoots and leaves can be cooked like spinach. The nettles should be picked between February and `June and gloves and scissors can be used to help you not get stung. After washing the nettles can be cooked and mashed into a puree, and chopped onion and slat and pepper can be added for extra flavour. Nettles can be used to make nettle soup. Nettles can also be dried and used to make a herbal tea and nettle teabags are on sale at health stores and from online suppliers of herbal supplements.  Nettle beer is another possibility.

Nettles contain vitamin C,  vitamin A and are a good source of iron, as well as being surprisingly high in protein. This means that eating nettles can help stop anaemia developing, because the condition is due to iron deficiency.

Stinging nettles are also widely used in herbalism because the plant has diuretic properties, as well as being a treatment for allergies, prostate disease, arthritis, asthma and many other conditions.

The stinging nettle comes very highly recommended by experts on edible plants, and is included in Richard Mabey's classic book Food For Free which is one of the best books out there when it comes to foraging.

Stinging nettles are very easy to find because they commonly grow on waste ground, on hedge-banks, along rivers and on the edges of fields and the margins of woods. 

Nettles for the Butterflies

Small tortoiseshell caterpillars

Many species of butterfly and moth caterpillar feed on the leaves of the stinging nettle. The red admiral (Vanessa atalanta), the small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) and the peacock (A. io) are three well-known British butterflies that use the plant as a food source for their larvae. The painted lady (V. cardui) and the comma (Polygonia c-album) are two other butterfly species with caterpillars that will eat nettles.

 Peacock Butterfly (Photo: Public Domain)

The garden tiger moth (Arctia caja) is a large and colourful moth with caterpillars known as woolly bears that will eat nettles, as well as many other food-plants.  This once common moth is sadly declining in numbers throughout the UK. 

Garden Tiger moths

So not destroying nettles is a conservation measure that helps many butterflies and moths to survive.  Growing a nettle patch in your back garden is a great way to attract butterflies and to aid them by supplying a plant they need. All good wildlife gardens should have a patch of nettles. The stinging nettle is a valuable plant that has been thought of a a useless weed but it actually has many uses as you can see.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Vote for Cuddly in the Cutest Pet Competition

Vote for Cuddly the Tuxedo cat!

Cuddly is the name of a black and white tuxedo cat belonging to me and my partner Melissa. Cuddly looks cuddly but he is actually badly named (my fault) because he doesn’t actually enjoy being cuddled or picked up. He is very friendly though, and comes when called and he makes charming little noises, which I cannot hope to duplicate in writing.

Cuddly is a very smart-looking tuxedo cat with a white bib, and he has a reddish tint to his black fur which you can see when the sun shines on him. When he closes his eyes it looks as if he has no eyes because they vanish in his dark fur. Cuddly reminds me of Batman too with his dark patches over his eyes and black ears like the pointed parts of the superhero’s hooded cowl.  Can you see the likeness too?

Cuddly came to us as a kitten when we were living at another house here in Portugal. Another tenant owned him then but she got a puppy and the two animals did not get on at all well. Cuddly was called Sico then and found himself not welcome in the home he had lived in until then because the puppy would attack him. It was play but it was too rough for Cuddly and he found our open windows and moved in. We told the owner and she was happy enough with this. Some months later she moved out and left Cuddly with us. He was now well and truly living with us. Cuddly is now around a year and a half in age and he has grown fast.

Cuddly loves his food and any type of food will do - dry cat food or wet cat food or human food, Cuddly will eat it! He was getting too fat and we think he was scrounging more food at neighbours’ houses in the street where we used to live. The vet put him on a weight-reduction diet and this worked. We have had to watch how much he eats since then and make sure he doesn’t get too much to eat.

Cuddly used to defend his territory where we lived before and would chase away other cats, though he was too scared of dogs and would shy away from them. When we moved he had to get used to the new surroundings and to living in a house with two other cats. It took him about a month to do so but he is now happy here and goes out and about exploring the garden of the place we live in. He also enjoys playing with Appalachia, who is a Persian kitten we share with the friends we share the house with.   

Sometimes Cuddly rears up just like a prairie dog and he looks really cute when he does this, I think you will agree?

Cuddly is currently entered in the PetVote Cutest Pet Competition, and the purpose of this blog entry is not just to tell you all about Cuddly but, hopefully, to get some more votes for him. It is really easy to vote and you do not need to do anything more than clicking on the button marked “Vote for Cuddly.” You can vote daily and every vote helps. Sharing our entry on social media sites like Facebook and twitter is also a great help. It is also possible to Like the entry for Cuddly and to comment, and whilst we appreciate comments and likes, it is the votes for Cuddly that we really need.

And if you have a pet and would like to enter your animal companion in the contest too then 1,000 points get awarded to Cuddly’s campaign that we can use to buy more votes for him, as long as you enter after accessing the Cutest Pet Competition site via our link. To enter is free and takes just minutes.

Please get voting and sharing and help Cuddly win!