Last year at this time, I was going into the first year as my new position as a 4-H Education Program Assistant. Spring slid right by me and I didn't get to do any wildcrafting.
In case you were wondering, wildcrafting is the practice of harvesting plants from their natural, or "wild" habitat, for food or medicinal purposes. It applies to uncultivated plants wherever they may be found, and is not necessarily limited to wilderness areas. Ethical considerations are often involved, such as protecting endangered species.
I harvest spring nettle and dehydrate it for a tea. It is supposed to help with common allergies and I've read some information about how it helps with arthritis. Since I have that in my hands, particularly in my thumb joints, I figure it can't hurt.
I harvest by taking a basket or cookie sheet, putting thick gloves on and using scissors, I cut leaves and tops (no blooms) off of the spring nettle plants. Because I harvest on our property, I know that there is no spray, etc. Please be cautious when harvesting along road sides or commercial properties, as you don't know what chemicals may have been used. And ALWAYS get permission from the property owner first. You don't want to come face-to-face with the wrong end of a shotgun.
I dehydrate the leaves in my food dehydrator for a very long time, (test carefully, if they are still limp when I move them with a fork, I don't even touch them, I simply let them keep going.) I prefer them crispy-sounding. I then carefully slide them into a mason jar and mash them with a wooden spoon til the leaves are crumbled. I found out the hard way, being a smart a** that there is still some sting left even when they are dry.
I make a tea using boiling water, which ensures that the sting is dead. (I'm a bit paranoid). I usually add some of our honey and will occasionally toss in some blackberry leaf and dried blueberries.
I will share my "cooked nettle" recipe another time, along with other things I wildcraft here on the southern Oregon coast.