Usually I get a lot of shocked comments when I pick a stinging nettle sample during one of my weed walks. "But you are touching it with bare hands! Doesn't that hurt?"
The thing is, I'm not a fan of gloves (well, I am thankful for them during frost times, but I am talking about garden gloves here). They are blindfolding my hands, and I like to use all my senses, especially when I'm in nature. So I got some exercise in barehand picking. And I can tell you, your body does get used to it. I've been doing this for over 15 years and hardly ever get stung anymore. And if I do, it feels more like stinging nettle tingling kisses to me than burning.
But here are some general tips:
- The largest amount of stinging hairs can be found on the leaves, especially the upper side. This means that stinging nettle stems are a good option for touching, carefully avoiding the leaves.
- Stinging nettle hairs work by friction: grab the plant firmly and it will do less harm than when you carefully stroke it.
- If you have a hard time holding them down while chopping them, put them in the freezer for a while first.
If you still get stung, sorrel leaves, plantain leaves and ground ivy leaves all are good remedies (and usually they grow where nettle grows). Just chew up the leaves to make a poultice, place them on the needed area and keep in place with a piece of cloth (like a cotton handkerchief).