Yesterday afternoon, I picked a bumper crop of stinging nettles on the job. Regular readers of my blog will know that I subsist largely on nettle-related dishes in the Spring. Typically, I make a whole lot of creamed nettles (use your favorite creamed spinach recipe, just substitute nettles for the spinach) which are delicious served on toast, topped with an egg. I also make a spanakopita variant with nettles added to the spinach. This year, I am definitely adding nettle pesto to the repertoire.
Even though I wear gloves while I pick nettles, an occasional stinging hair gets through sometimes. The sting of the nettles of North America, while painful for a short duration, is harmless (this is not true of New Zealand's death nettle- there's a "death nettle/death metal joke in here somewhere) and has been used as a folk remedy for osteoarthritis throughout history. As someone who's experienced the mild "burn" of nettles with some frequency, I can see that it would make a good substitute for IcyHot- as the current indie pop hit goes, it's better to feel pain, than nothing at all.
Stinging nettles grow all over the various worksites that I cover, so I will have delicious, nutritious nettles to feast on until June, when the plants start to flower and accumulate cystoliths. As I do every spring, I am urging you to try stinging nettles- they are easy to identify and they are ubiquitous. With food costs being high, and food quality being low, what could be better than high-quality free food?