Urtica dioica ... or something like that. I have a love/hate relationship with the plant. Because while walking by it in the heat of summer without long socks is not a pretty or enjoyable thing to do, there really are so many ways to use stinging nettle (wearing gloves) that perhaps I can forgive it it's abrasive personality. Maybe.
My family has been trying out new ways to use nettles for years. We have boiled it and made a lovely greens side dish from it, we have even mixed it with our canned pork. It is really delicous once disarmed. It tastes like a cross between spinach and cucumber, however weird that sounds. You can just toss it into soups, which is great, and drying and grinding the leaves makes a great tea addition, and I have heard tell that nettle tea helps to ease traditional menopausal symptoms.
The thing I have been looking into most recently is making rennet for cheesemaking by steeping the leaves. That is a priceless use in my book, especially if you don't really have a calf to butcher every year just for cheesemaking endeavors.
Any form of cooking will disarm the scary leaves of this plant. You will want to wear gloves during harvest, but about 10 minutes of boiling, sauteing, or most any cooking procedure will soften or dissolve the microscopic needles that cause irritation.
If you can find this priceless plant growing on your homestead (please make sure it is the right plant before using it!) then you are in business, because there are endless ways to use it. It is the star of some pretty amazing recipes, a few of which I am anxious to try this season:
Garlicky Nettle Pesto
This weird lasanga.
(Can you tell I love Italian food much?)
If you have ever used stinging nettles in an awesome and different way, let me know in the comments! :)
Until Next Time,