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The common stinging or burning nettle (Urtica dioica) has long been used for food, tea, beer, and wine. The stem and mature, dark green leaves are covered with tiny hairs ripe with formic acid, the source of the stinging inflicted by these plants. The small leaf buds and flowers that form near the top of the plant are the edible portions, too immature to be capable of inflicting pain yet.

Nonetheless, one should wear a thick, long-sleeved shirt and gloves when collecting them, as most other portions of the plants from which the tender tops are collected can cause hours of pain, itching, and discomfort. Another edible nettle found in moist woods and river bottomlands throughout the eastern and southern United States is the itch weed or wood nettle.

At a height of three feet, the wood nettle is smaller than the stinging nettle and the leaves are lighter in color but exhibit similar stinging properties as the stinging nettle. Gather the young, growing tops and wash and drain them as soon as possible. Measure them without packing. Nettle wine is said to lack character and may be infused with another base ingredient to make it better. This recipe is for pure nettle wine. The others contain second ingredients.

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