Nettle is a perennial plant that thrives in woodlands and other shady areas throughout Europe and eastern North America. It is also called stinging nettle because the leaves are lined with stinging hairs that inject histamine into the skin when handled or brushed against, although they readily drop off when introduced to hot water or steam. Nettle is one of the first herbs to emerge in early spring and because the leaves are rich in calcium and other nutrients, it is considered a valuable tonic herb. While whole leaves are cooked like spinach or roasted to make crisp snack chips, dried nettle is used in teas or simply sprinkled into cooked foods and smoothies.
Nettle is an annual herb that is distantly related to the rose. The herb has a long and varied history of use. For instance, it is one of the ingredients in the old English formula for Nine Herbs Charm, the 10th century answer to venomous snakebite.
It has also been a food crop for centuries, and is still consumed as a steamed or puréed vegetable. Powdered dried nettle leaf adds a spinach-like flavor to foods, such as stews, soups, and egg, cheese and rice dishes.