Did hunter-gatherers do this? I wonder. Did they go to the places they gathered herbs or greens before, but now it's in the too-early spring or the very-late winter. Did they also go and look and wonder when those leaves would come up?
|A young, luscious-looking nettle|
There are a lot of recipes on the Internet on how to cook nettles, or use them in soups and other recipes, but of course the first, very very most important thing is to know that it's a nettle, and not something else. -- The evil way (crude but effective) is to grab it and see if you are stung by their sharp little hairs, but that's really a last resort!
There's no way to get good at identifying plants other than the big P, practice! Get ID books for your area, talk to folks older than yourself, your local botany teacher, etc.
Never underestimate the unknown knowledge hidden in the heads around you. Ask questions. Don't be shy.
And if you have a camera, take pictures of the plants you see and compare them to your research, whether it be books or the internet. You'll find that plants often look different in various seasons, at different angles, and at different parts of the plant. So be persistent, be curious, be snoopy! Identify!