It's that time of year when the stinging nettles explode all over the forests of the Pacific NW. Often feared for the burning sting it provides if touched with bare hands, few people realize the true health gift inherent in this plant.
Properly handled, you can actually harvest and eat this plant with your bare hands. That being said, unless properly trained by a nettle master, I would stick to safer methods. To harvest, cut with scissors into a bag or bucket. Cook or grind prior to eating to avoid stinging your mouth. Once you have broken down or softened the mini thorns, they no longer can hurt you. You can either boil the plant for one minute then cool in a ice bath or grind in a blender.
Why go to all of this trouble? Because, this plant is LOADED with nutrients. It is also pretty cool that it grows wild in abundance. I love an opportunity to wild forage.
Stinging nettles are known for their anti-inflammatory properties, which makes them a great addition to your medicine cabinet. I make my kids nettle tea whenever they have a cold and wrap them into our meals more regularly if somebody is injured. They are high in Vitamins A, C, and E, as well as iron and calcium. One cup of nettle infusion can provide you with your daily recommended dose of calcium. They are helpful for kidney function, arthritis, anemia, high blood pressure, and more.
Taste wise, it is a lot like spinach and can be used in the same way for cooking.