Nettle Do Nicely

Being in the midst of a public health pandemic has devastated most businesses and organisations but not for enterprising Hugo Morrissey.

Working with chef Mark Barker and SAC Consulting, Nuisance Drinks of Edinburgh, has created a palatable nutrient drink made from nettles. 

Launched with a sparkling nettle pressé earlier this year, Hugo has been awarded an innovation funding voucher by Interface to expand the range.

Hugo Morrissey of Nuisance Drinks

Commenting on the award Hugo said: 

“Nettles are often regarded as a nuisance, but they are a natural and abundant superfood. They are packed full of nutrients and vitamins and I really wanted to find a way to maximise the benefits they offer. 

“My mother used to make nettle pressé when we were children, so it was the obvious place to start, and it has been really well received. 

“I have since been keen to explore the options to add to the more common wheatgrass, ginger and turmeric shots available on the market.

“Over the last few months, health and wellbeing has become more important than ever and I am looking forward to working with Mark to create a product that offers vital health benefits, can be produced on a commercial scale and how we can best prolong its shelf life without compromising its goodness.” 

 As well as being high in calcium, magnesium, iron, essential amino acids and vitamins A, C and K, nettles have been associated with:

  • reducing inflammation
  • treating enlarged prostate symptoms, hay fever, eczema, tendinitis
  • lowering blood pressure and aiding blood sugar control
  • boosting vitality, hair and nail growth. 

Nettles also have a higher protein content than most vegetables. 

 Alistair Trail of SAC Consulting Alistair Trail who is leading the project said: 

“Health drinks has been a growing market, as are protein alternatives, and what Hugo is looking at is right on trend.

“Mark has helped developed a number of healthy foods and drinks using similarly overlooked ingredients such as sea buckthorn and seaweed, and this is an exciting new challenge.

“We are very pleased to be getting new projects underway again now that the kitchens can safely reopen and to working on this exciting product development with Hugo.” 

For the pressé, Hugo has been foraging for nettles on Hopetoun Estate, but as demand grows he is keen to look at options for a more efficient and accessible source. 

He says he is yet to find a farmer “crazy enough” to grow a field of nettles but is open to collaboration ideas. 

David Lawson, grass specialist at SAC Consulting, says nettles have the potential to be a commercial crop with different markets: as well as extracting the juice, the protein can be made into food for animal or human consumption and the fibre from the stem of the nettles can be made into clothing. 

However the challenge is the cost of establishing a viable commercial process to create a market: 

“There have been various examples post-World War Two and in more recent fashion of using nettles as an alternative to cotton, which has a fairly heavy impact on the environment, and the health benefits of nettles are also recognised. However, the farmer or processor will always be reluctant to invest if there is no known market.

” It’s chicken and egg as without a product there is nothing to market, so it really needs to be done in tandem. Nettles also promote biodiversity so if this is combined with a more environmental solution to clothing and protein production, it may be an area of interest for government funding to develop a process and a market.” 

Nettles would be an easy crop to grow, according to David, as they will resow naturally and need few inputs, and could be part of the rotation. However, they do have a high nitrogen requirement so would need to be grown on good fertile, rather than marginal, land. David has recently been researching growing clover as an alternative protein source, which builds strong fertility in the soil, ideal for growing potatoes – and nettles. 

3 replies »

  1. There’s always a story…

    When I was a little girl, living in Bradford, Yorkshire, my Dad used to take me for walks up through the nearby Heaton Woods, to where his friend lived, who made nettle beer.
    It’s a long time ago, but I can clearly remember the room, with big vats of ‘brew’ fermenting, and the smell in that room!

    After our walk up through the woods, we would be hot, and Dad’s friend would give us each a mug of his beer – that would be frowned on today – I was about 8 years old! But that’s another clear, happy memory – sitting outside his house, on a bench, sipping nettle beer, in the sun.

    And, unbeknown to us, it looks like it was doing us good, too!

    I think I also have a memory of a poultice of boiled up nettles being good for a sprain? I’m afraid a lot of these old remedies are being lost.

  2. Alleged gypsy miracle cure

    I recall a story from long ago
    a girl with polio was cured by rolling her daily (naked) in a bank of nettles

    A true story but not fact checked

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