Another one of those love them or hate them plants the Stinging Nettle, personally i like the Nettle, i don't even mind the sting these days, mainly i think because I've been stung so often that I've developed a kind of immunity to the sting, although just occasionally a strong one will catch me out and remind me of the sting.
Many people will use the Nettle to make a weak tea, which i find to be quite revolting, and they will cook the leaves up like a spinach, now that i like, in fact when we go up the woods we will quite often collect the fresh young leaves from the tip of the Nettle and cook them up as an extra vegetable with our dinner, we have also tried them wilted over a fire, just like uncle Ray did on the telly, and yes he is right, it is possibly the best taste you can get from a Nettle, by the way don't eat the older leaves as they can have a laxative effect, the Nettle is very high in minerals, especially iron and is one of the few plants that contains a high protein content, oh yes, next time you have a packet of sweets etc and see the additive E140 listed, yep that's also extracted from Stinging Nettles.
Of course the Nettle is not only a good plant to eat, but it also has a number of medicinal uses and is used in the treatment of arthritis and rheumatism by stinging the affected joints with the plant, this action is believed to act as a counter irritant and brings increased blood flow to the joints and to help remove toxins, of course the Nettle will also treat it's own sting, next time your stung by a Nettle, instead of reaching for a dock leaf, crush up some Nettles, this takes guts by the way, and squeeze the Nettle's as hard as you can to extract the juice, then rub this on the affected area, works just as well as a Dock Leaf, try it, you will be surprised.
Of course the Nettle has others uses as well, the fibres from the stems can be used to make one of the best natural cordage's, a bunch of freshly cut Nettles also makes an effective fly deterrent, to be honest there are so many uses for the Nettle, that it warrants more than a single post on the subject and this is something i will address in the coming weeks with a couple of further posts on the subject.
Lastly, if you want to know why the Nettle stings so much, have a look at this photo i took of the stings with a macro lens on my camera.
Thousands of natures own hypodermic needles, each with it's own reservoir of Formic acid, just waiting for the unwary.