Stinging Nettles are perfect and tender, ready for picking right now (here is Tas anyway)
Use gloves and long sleeves so the irritating hairs don't sting you. If you do happen to get stung cast your eye around for dock, it usually always grows where nettles do. Crush the stem and leaf and apply the moist mash, it works almost instantly. If you can't find dock, go for plantain.
Young nettle tops can be made into pesto, ravioli filling, soup and many people enjoy it as a simple tea. Nettle tea in your kombucha brew is so yummy. Nettles are power packed with nutrition and health benefits and a much better choice for a "cleanse" than some of the more extreme methods. A cup of nettle tea every morning for a couple of weeks will move your winter body into a revitalised state. A word of warning though, it can lower blood sugar and blood pressure so if you are already on medication for those complaints then you should only use nettle medicinally under supervision.
You know me though, I can't resist a cordial experiment.
Most of the recipes I found suggested steeping/fermenting for a week. I thought that was not necessary for nettles. I simmered a huge bunch of tender leaves with 2 litres of water for at least half an hour. It was an amazing rich green colour. After straining I added 100g of sugar for every 100ml of liquid, stirring over a low heat to dissolve. Most cordial recipes also add citric acid (from lemons) for preserving and erring on the side of caution I added about 50g and I was horrified to see my gorgeous green liquid turn brackish brown. You live and learn. All you chemists out there are probably nodding your heads sagely.
I have found some great cocktails that call for nettle syrup (here and here)but you can also just enjoy it in a punch or in a long glass of soda water. Great splashed in a Pimms too I should imagine.
Do google and read up on nettles, they are an amazing plant and perfect for a novice forager as it can be harvested in meaningful culinary quantities easily and is very versatile. You could even substitute for spinach in the pasta like I did last weekend.
Do share if you have a favourite way with nettles.