It’s silly that I don’t have a picture here yet of stinging nettle, given its ubiquity, and the quantity we’ve harvested recently (the harvesting has interfered with photography for sure). It’s a wonderful food plant, easy to gather in large quantities, and has been employed medicinally by European types for ages. Incredibly nutrient-dense, it’s particularly useful for seasonal allergies; I’ve had multiple friends who’d gone through many medications for severe sensitivities, and the only thing that’s alleviated their suffering has been daily drinking of nettle tea. It’s also incredibly high in iron, which makes it a great food plant for women. If you can take the sting, it also helps with arthritis and muscle pain when you rub it on the sore area. Nettles are a truly miraculous plant with great strength–they’re the only plant I’ve seen to build a wall against a garlic mustard invasion (maybe because of their shared root system, in combination with some other intrinsic qualities). That’s a capability I want to investigate further through experimental observation.
In any case, I’m supposed to be primarily making a post on how to cook this plant. When they’re only a few inches high, you can eat stinging nettles raw, if you’re bold. I don’t do it much. I tend to pan-fry them in olive oil or bacon fat, sprinkling it with a little water and a little salt. They’re even better with ramps or garlic greens. Young nettles make a great soup; blend them in stock with cream. I’ll update this post soon with a recipe for nettle malfatti, an Italian dumpling that knocks my socks off.
The main things to know are that nettles are better than spinach, and that frying, blending, blanching and drying for tea all dismantle the stingers. Any recipe is likely to start with a 30-second dunk in boiling water.