Stinging Nettles have their nutritional value, for you and your garden.
If you're a gardener, you've probably had this experience. While weeding, you yank out a hairy plant and... A painful burning sensation, and some choice words, ensue. You've just had a close encounter with a stinging nettle.
Stinging nettles have square stems and opposite, toothed leaves. Each plant is covered with hollow hairs, like tiny hypodermic needles, filled with chemical irritants. Each is topped by a brittle, microscopic bulb. When you brush against the plant, you break the bulbs and their sharp edges scratch and release the chemicals onto your skin. The resulting rash is quickly painful, but usually fades within 12 hours.
Your next reaction might be...
But wait! Nettles have their good points, too! Toss them on your compost heap; they'll provide a boost of iron for your garden. And to make a natural fertilizer, fill a barrel with nettles and water and let it steep for a few weeks. Then use the liquid to feed your plants. And try eating them yourself! Fresh nettles, which can be cooked like spinach, or brewed into a tasty tea, provided a welcome change in diet as well as important vitamins and minerals. They were even used by sailors to prevent scurvy.
So this season learn to identify stinging nettles. Next spring, carefully gather up a big bunch. Steam them in a little water until they're tender, add salt and pepper and enjoy! And don't worry, cooking disarms the plant's stingers.