How to: Make Stinging Nettle Soup

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Nettles are a very nutritious, high-quality, free, and easily harvestable wild food source that has become very underused in modern times. Once used across multiple continents as a nutritious, high-protein, high-vitamin and mineral, complement to meats and starches; they have fallen out of use in modern times with the emergence of the modern grocery store culture, like many free and very nutritious wild food sources have.

Perhaps no single wild plant both satisfies and challenges the contemporary reputation of wild foods as much as stinging nettle (Urtica dioica). A weedy perennial found on every continent but Antarctica, nettles have long been collected for food, medicine, and fiber. Their use can be traced deep into human history - samples of nettle cloth have been found in Bronze Age excavations - and fragments of their extensive lore linger today. Nettle extracts are used in some commercial soaps and shampoos, and nettle tea is marketed as a popular natural remedy for spring allergies.

We would all do well to incorporate nettles into our diet, as they are an unusually rich source of nutrients. Fresh leaves contain up to 20% protein (dried leaves up to 40%)-more than any other known leafy green - and as a source of essential amino acids, nettles are comparable to beans and chicken meat. A hundred grams of fresh nettle leaves (a generous 1/2-cup blanched) contains 100% of our daily vitamin-A requirements as well as 46% of our daily calcium, 20% of our daily fiber and 10% of our daily iron.

In the kitchen, their sting is easily tamed. Boiling or steaming the leaves for a few minutes, letting them soak in cold water overnight, or laying them out to dry until brittle are simple techniques to nullify their irritants and transform nettles into a versatile ingredient. Nettles become bitter (and less nutritious) the longer they are cooked. Short blanching times (3-5 minutes) yield the tastiest greens, as tender as the finest spinach but with a more complex flavor profile: nutty and rich with a fresh, surprising sweetness not unlike a cucumber’s.

Nettle’s intense flavor goes a long way, making it an excellent component in creamy soups and sauces, including the popular nesto (nettle pesto). Its silky texture and richness give depth to starches like polenta, risotto, noodles and gnocchi. Nettles may stand in for all or part of the spinach in recipes such as spanakopita or Aloo. Dried leaves can be steeped for tea, or crumbled into powder and used as a seasoning. with that being said here is one of my favorite recipes with Nettles:

3C Stinging Nettle leaves blanched/parboiled
3-5C Broth (Chicken, Veg, or Beef) or water
2C Potatoes parboiled
2T Olive oil
Salt to taste
Garnish with Sour cream or Cesar dressing

1). Bring a medium pot of water to a boil with salt.

2). Drop in the stinging nettles, and cook 1 to 2 minutes until they soften. This will remove most of the sting.

3). Drain in a colander, and rinse with cold water. Trim off any tough stems, then chop coarsely.

4). Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat, and stir in the onion. Cook until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes.

5). Stir in the potatoes, chicken broth, and chopped nettles. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer about 15 minutes.

6). Puree the soup with an immersion blender or carefully pour into a blender or food-processor and pulse on puree until roughly smooth, and season to taste with salt and pepper, and/or sweetener of your choice. Pureeing is optional.

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