Stinging Nettles – More than a food source.
by Andrew Pullen
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Just reading about your experiments with Stinging Nettles reminded me of a time when I experimented with making a biodegradable nettle insecticide…
Many years ago I decided to make my own insecticide for a biology O-Level project using bunches of nettles that were soaked in a bucket of water and left outdoors for a few days.
Being fifteen at the time, life kinda got in the way and to cut a long story short I’d forgotten about the bucket of soaking nettles and only realised when, from a small part of the garden, eminated the most unearthly smell I’d ever experienced.
My parents were used to me keeping weird and wonderful insect and animal life for study as I was and still am a keen naturalist but even they drew the line as people stopped visiting us…
Upon investigating I realised the now sludge-like mass of well fermented nettles were the source of the smell. Holding my breath and using thick gloves I filtered the slime – I mean nettle water – and decanted it into a pump sprayer. The results were ‘interesting…’
I sprayed the ‘jus’ over my dad’s veg crops and waited with baited breath at the results. Anyway, when my parents started to talk to me again and they’d replanted the fruit and veg that had been ‘modified’ (basically shrivelled and slightly dead) I realised my natural insecticide was in fact a herbicide and worked with the same vigour as the ‘Agent Orange’ defoliant used in the Sixties…
So the moral of the tale is to only leave nettles soaking for a few days and not the few weeks in hot summer weather that I had done.