The trick to picking stinging nettle is do not, I repeat, do not let it touch your skin. Use rubber gloves, a long sleeve shirt, long pants, socks, and sturdy shoes. In our weekly Saturday class, we had one gal accidently reach into the box of fresh nettle the instructor brought. She was in agony until she was instructed to roll up a nettle leaf (with gloves) and mash it adding a little water (or spit, whatever is most readily available). Then squeezing out the nettle juice on to the affected area, the blistering and “fire” will subside, somewhat. (Photo from http://www.wildwoodsurvival.com/survival/food/edibleplants/nettle/)
On to cooking nettle. With your gloves on, snip off the leaves into cool water and rinse off little spiders and dirt. Then place into boiling water for two minutes. Remove the leaves and the hot water is now a delicious tea! (The nettle tea can also be used as a rinse on your hair to make it shine.) Place the cooked leaves into a blender with garlic, parmesan cheese, and olive oil (your choice on consistency, but it needs to be somewhat of a paste.) This makes the best pesto I have ever eaten. We had this on top of mashed potatoes. Just delicious. It compares to fresh cooked spinach, but with a little sweet-ness. Packed full of iron and protein.
The only downside is the preparation and care needed to bring it home for cooking. But, I will try this again. It is that good.
Made a salad of miner’s lettuce yesterday with ranch dressing and fresh radishes from our friend’s garden. Tastes a little “green” compared to Romaine, but very flavorful. We found a huge growth area under a tree a little over a block away from the house.