It is spring (as I write) and here in the PNW we are "fortunate" enough to have an abundance of Stinging Nettle that grows pretty much every where.
These nasty plants may give you an irritating sting if handled incorrectly, but they can also provide an array nutritious and tasty foods.
Handling these buggers can be tricky so here are a few tips I've learned after many sting!
When going out to collect nettle, be wary of where they are growing. They often appear in disturbed areas, by road and trails but try to look for where they would get the least pollution. Nettles like all plants build themselves out of the air and soil around them, if they are growing in a ditch full of garbage by an interstate with car fumes 24/7, give 'um a miss.
When picking, use BBQ tongs. Gloves are good too but tongs are best. Bring one of those reusable grocery bags to store them.
Pick them when they are young. No more than 2 feet high.
take only the top couple leaves. They branch with leaves opposite each other, take only the top 6 or so, these are the best tasting.
Try to get as little stalk as you can, stalks are fibrous and not very good.
When you've got your bag of nettles, get a pot of salty water boiling and blanch the leaves for about 30 seconds. Take them out with a strainer and drain out as much water as you can. When the batch is all done, cool them under the tap and then squeeze out the water.
A good approximation is a quarter of a shopping bag will reduce to about a cup of cooked nettles.