If you have foraged for stinging nettle more than a few times, you are well aware of how tall those plants can get and how vicious those stingers can be. The further into the growing season, the more chance you have of experiencing the wrath of the stinging nettle.
You probably realize I am writing from personal experience. Ouch! Yes.
Here’s the good news: the first nettles of spring have stingers but very little sting. They just seem to be warming up, practicing for the big show, as it were. This is the time to go full boar on nettle foraging. Think big! You can freeze or dehydrate what you do not immediately consume.
Keep it Cool: If you are not going to cook or process your nettle upon returning home, put it in the refrigerator. We pick early nettle in the valley below us. At home the temperatures are still quite cold and we keep the bag of nettle on the back porch. We call it our “walk-in” refrigerator. As temperatures warm up, we harvest nettle right into a cooler.
Clean it: Before you cook or process nettle, wash it well. It may look squeaky clean, but do not be deceived. All those microscopic hairs hold on to microscopic grains of sand. This is all the more true of the flowers and seed heads. We place it in a bowl, cover it with water, swish it around, and remove the leaves. If there is sand or dirt in the bottom of the bowl, we clean out the bowl and wash the leaves again. We repeat the process until the water is clean.
My experience with the spring tips is that I can handle them with bare hands in the washing process. This is not true later in the season, believe me! It may or may not be true for you. We all have different levels of sensitivity to nettle.
PS: If you need any boost in motivation for foraging these spring nettle, do read the nettle entry on Dr. Christopher’s site. You will be rushing for your gloves and clippers. I promise!
Good luck, good eating, and good health!
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