Stinging Nettles are aggressive growers spreading from creeping rhizomes as well as through prolific seed production, and thrive in disturbed soil with moderate sun and moisture. They are dynamic accumulators, meaning that they effectively seek and store nutrients in their tissues that other plants might not be able to access, and release those nutrients back into the soil in a more available form when their tissues break down. Nettles are great accumulators of Calcium, Potassium, Sulfur, Copper, Iron, Sodium and Nitrogen.
Despite the stinging hairs which cover the whole plant, these tough plants are a powerhouse of nutrients and vitamins, with high levels Vitamins A and C as well the highest concentration of protein by mass of any leafy green. The stinging hairs can easily be neutralized through a brief application of high heat. A quick saute, steam, or blanch renders the leaves harmless and delicious. Like many greens, the choicest time to harvest the leaves is when they are young and supple early in the season. This is also when the stinging hairs are at their least potent. The fibrous stems of nettle plants can also be used to make cordage and can be processed into a linen or hemp-like fabric.
So next time you come across a patch of nettles on your landscape, don't worry or fret, but put on some gloves and make a nice batch of nettle pesto to share with family and friends.