Above is a picture of what stinging nettles look like in my part of the world. There are a number of varieties in other places. NEVER gather and use or eat wild plants without consulting a local expert. Stinging nettles have teensy little spines all over them that have formic acid in them. If you brush against them with your skin, you will get stung. Be careful! If you do get stung, make a paste of baking soda and water to soothe the irritation. Nettles are so healthy and wonderful that it is worth the risk! Once you wash the nettles well, the formic acid is gone. They are perfectly safe to eat.
This morning, my daughter and I went to a place near a river not far from where we live and picked quite a lot of stinging nettles. We wore pants, long sleeves and gloves that have rubbery stuff on the palms and fingers to protect ourselves. We just roamed around picking off the top bunch of leaves and not bothering the rest. Then it started to rain in earnest, so we came back home. I spent most of the rest of the day dealing with the nettle haul!
First, I filled all the trays with leaves I carefully cut off the stems. I set the dehydrator at 105 F and let it run for a few hours. It really didn't take very long until they were dry, compared with other things I have dehydrated. When they were thoroughly dry, I used my hands and crunched them all up, stuffed them into a quart jar (it filled it) and put a lid on tightly. That is for making nettle tea, which is very good for you and also has medicinal properties.
Next, I put some good olive oil in a small skillet, cut up some oyster mushroom in it and added a big handful of the fresh nettle leaves. That was sauteed until everything seemed done, and I added salt and pepper. Yum. I had that for lunch.
I blanched the rest of the leaves in boiling water for 1 minute, then put them in ice water. Then I put them in a dish towel, and used it to squeeze all the water out that I could by twisting the towel tightly.
Those were used to make NETTLE PESTO!
1/2 firmly packed cup of blanched nettles
1/4 cup walnut meats, chopped and toasted in a skillet (pine nuts are too costly)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
This can be made in a food processor, or you can carefully mash it all up together with a mortar and pestle.
I still had some blanched nettle leaves left, so I froze them in an ice cube tray and will add them to soup.