Common Names: Stinging nettle, common nettle
Sub-category: Nettle family
The plant has many hollow stinging hairs called trichomes on its leaves and stems, which act like hypodermic needles, injecting histamine and other chemicals that produce a stinging sensation when contacted by humans and other animals. Stinging nettle is a dioecious herbaceous perennial, 3 to 7 feet tall in the summer and dying down to the ground in winter. It has widely spreading rhizomes and stolons, which are bright yellow as are the roots. The soft green leaves are 1 to 6 inches long and are borne oppositely on an erect wiry green stem. The leaves have a strongly serrated margin, a cordate base and an acuminate tip with a terminal leaf tooth longer than adjacent laterals. It bears small greenish or brownish numerous flowers in dense axillary inflorescences.
Found near roadsides, waste areas, and fields and forests.
Edible Notes: Despite the stinging hairs, the plant is a good wild edible, as the leaves can be eaten or made into a tea if properly cooked and prepared to remove the stinging hairs. Stinging nettle has a flavor similar to spinach and cucumber when cooked and is rich in vitamins A, C, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium. In its peak season, stinging nettle contains up to 25% protein, dry weight, which is high for a leafy green vegetable. Soaking nettles in water or cooking will remove the stinging chemicals from the plant, which allows them to be handled and eaten without incidence of stinging. The leaves are also dried and may then be used to make a tisane, as can also be done with the nettle's flowers.
Look for nettle tea in gourmet and natural food stores. Look for nettle-spiced cheeses such as 'Full Nettle Jack' in gourmet food stores. Do not consume plants near roadsides, waste areas, and areas that may have been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides.
Warnings: As the name implies, this plant is covered by tiny stinging hairs that can cause an intense stinging and burning sensation if touched.