Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)

Stinging Nettle in Frederick Co., Maryland (4/3/2010). Notorious among hikers and birders for the very uncomfortable stinging sensation produced on contact. Hollow stinging hairs (trichomes) all over the plant inject histamine and other chemicals, producing noteworthy discomfort.  Photo by Bill Hubick.

Above: Stinging Nettle in Frederick Co., Maryland (4/3/2010). Notorious among hikers and birders for the very uncomfortable stinging sensation produced on contact. Hollow stinging hairs (trichomes) all over the plant inject histamine and other chemicals, producing noteworthy discomfort.

According to Wikipedia, "Stinging nettle has a flavour similar to spinach and cucumber when cooked and is rich in vitamins A, C, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium. Young plants were harvested by Native Americans and used as a cooked plant in spring when other food plants were scarce. Soaking nettles in water or cooking will remove the stinging chemicals from the plant, which allows them to be handled and eaten without incidence of stinging. After stinging nettle enters its flowering and seed setting stages the leaves develop gritty particles called "cystoliths", which can irritate the urinary tract.[14] In its peak season, stinging nettle contains up to 25% protein, dry weight, which is high for a leafy green vegetable. The young leaves are edible and make a very good pot-herb. The leaves are also dried and may then be used to make a tisane, as can also be done with the nettle's flowers." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stinging_nettle)

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