Nettles and dock leaves

When I was a child I used to roam around the countryside with my sister or with friends, climbing trees or crossing fields full of cows as a dare. (One of my friends was absolutely terrified of cows, so I always won!) My sister showed me how to suck the sweet nectar out of the flowers of white dead nettles/Taubnessel  (Lamium album)

…but  we inevitably walked by clumps of stinging nettles/Brennnessel  (Urtica dioica)…

…and frequently got stung… But this was not a problem as there was always a patch of dock leaves /Ampfer (Rumex) nearby…

…pick a nice juicy one, rub it on the sting quick, and no tears!

The dock, also called sorrel, is known to contain tannins and oxalic acid, which may cause the relief. Or is it all in the mind…? The leaves can be eaten in small quantities, as a salad leaf or like spinach, but due to the oxalic acid they can be poisonous to animals and are therefore not loved by farmers. I must admit that I personally don’t like their flavour in a salad as they overpower every other ingredient with their rather sour taste.

When I came to Germany I was surprised that nobody seemed to know they are a cure for nettle stings, even though the dock grows just as profusely near nettles here as in the UK, and appears to be the same broad-leaved dock Rumex obtusifolius that is typical in England. The Germans have their own cure: Spitzwegerich, which is Narrowleaf Plantain in English – Plantago lanceolata

By the way, nettles are great food for the larvae of lots of moths and butterflies, so we shouldn’t cut them down if we can avoid it… just make sure you have some dock leaves in your garden too! 😉