April has arrived. Here’s the thing. Nettles are where it’s at this month. New growth from now through summer provides a wealth of free nettles for the kitchen. Nettles are best picked young.  This is the ideal time. The older they get, the more tough and bitter tasting they become. So if a bowl of Nettle Soup does it for you – get out and get foraging.First locate your patch of nettles. Tips here. Not too near a busy road where they will have been exposed to car exhaust fumes and heaven knows what else. Nettles grow prolifically almost anywhere. You may even find some in your own garden, if it isn’t too well weeded. The best places are where there is little likelihood of spraying from chemicals – so a rough grassy field, the hedgerows of quiet country lane,  or a wooded area. If the patch is on someone’s land, ask permission first. Harvesting nettles can be a tricky encounter. Who doesn’t remember being stung by these sneaky plants as a child?  Dock leaves are the answer to that one. They always seem to grow near nettles so if you do get stung, rub a dock leaf on the itchy bit to soothe it. It always worked for this writer. But you can avoid stinging by wearing long sleeves tucked into thick gardening gloves and bicycle clips round your trouser bottoms. No exposed skin! The tender plant tops are what you want. Snip those off with scissors so the plants have chance for re-growth in the coming weeks. Keep wearing the protective gloves till you have rinsed your nettle tops thoroughly, removed stray grass stalks or other weeds and the tougher stems,  then put the nettles in a pan of hot stock for your soup. When cooked, the stinging properties magically disappear. Making nettle soup is easy – there are lots of recipes out there but you can follow a recipe for spinach soup just as well.  Nettles are very similar in character to spinach but much more nutritionally beneficial. Be bold  – grasp the nettle this April!