There’s a Sting in the Air

Orkney food and drink is amongst the best, if not the best in Scotland. The standards of our industry are unparalleled. But so too are its unique ingredients which add to the special flavour the products have.

Our beef is from cattle raised on the lush green grass of our islands. The ancient cereal crop of our fields yields a barley that when milled produces a wonderful bere flour for delicious bannocks.

In the drinks industry Orkney boasts of 2 distilleries, 2 breweries, 1 winery,  and 1 gin distiller. All produced in Orkney.

And now one local farmer has entered the industry with his own unique product. Cygnet Swanson comes from a long line of farming folk but with Brexit looming and the delays to his CAP monies from the Scottish Government he felt it was the right time to diversify. Mr Swanson had noticed that one plant which grew well round the edges of his fields no matter what the weather was Urtica dioica.

Cygnet explains:

” Well I was rooting about in the kitchen drawer wbere everything gets put and found me grannies old recipe book. In it was her nettle tea concoction. Grannie always said it was a right fine tonic. And I had me brilliant idea….why no let the nettles be, in fact have fields of them.”

It was only a short step from there for Cygnet’s idea to come to fruition and he now has 3 fields where no blade of grass can be seen for its nettles from fence to dyke. Harvesting was a bit of a prickly problem to start with as Mr Swanson attempted to use traditional methods but could find no one willing to work under such conditions.

Once the nettles are harvested (by machine) the brewing takes place followed by bottling.  Mr Swanson is confident of success particularly with people with more money than sense and has priced each bottle at £5 each which is the real sting in the tale.


Photo Fergus Graemsay

Reporter: Fergus Graemsay

“Sometimes it’s like watching a wasp land on a stinging nettle: someone’s going to get stung and you don’t care.”
― Terry PratchettNight Watch

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