Botanical name : Urtica Dioica
Common name : Stinging Nettle
Physical appearance : A medium sized perennial with large, toothed, heart shaped leaves. The plant is an upright perennial which is covered with fine stinging hairs, with thin catkins of green flowers.
Edible parts : Leaves and stems. The younger shoots are the tastiest. The older leaves and stems take on a distinctly woody and gritty texture combined with a bitter flavour. Older leaves can also have a mildly laxative effect.
Best places to find : Roadsides, cultivated ground, hedgerows, woodlands, waste ground and river valleys.
Time of year : The leaves and stems can be picked from February to May or even a little later. As mentioned above, those picked later in the season tend to become bitter.
Serving suggestions : Can be used as a replacement for spinach. Be sure to clean all parts thoroughly before consumption. Can be made into a soup using a vegetable or meat stock. You may want to use gloves for harvesting the plant as the fine hairs will sting if handled. N.B. Once cooked, the sting is neutralised so don't worry about being stung when eating.
Nutritional value : High in vitamins A and C. High iron content. High protein content.
Other uses : the stems can be processed down and made into useful cordage, with a decent tensile strength.
NB - Please be sure you know what you are picking. Many plants look similar to one another and many can be poisonous! Please seek professional instruction if you are unsure!
Photo courtesy of Skalle-Per Hedenhös - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=80510587