Nettles are up!
One of the things I most look forward to in early spring is the emergence of stinging nettles. Yes– stinging! Many people resent this plant from youthful encounters with the tiny hairs on its stem and leaves. These hairs are filled with histamine, formic acid, and other irritating compounds, and they inject these substances into the skin, leaving irritated spots that sting and tingle for the rest of the day.
Sooo…why am I excited about this?
Aside from being the bane of outdoor enthusiasts and child explorers, nettles is a deeply nourishing herbal remedy and food. They can be used as a tea, tincture, or fresh green– when cooked, blended, dried, or otherwise processed they lose their sting and transform into a nutrient-dense tonic herb that helps restore depleted energy and nourish the body from head to toe.
Want to try some? Look for nettles at your neighborhood farmer’s market, or search for them outside if you’re feeling adventurous! Their sting is an unmistakable identification characteristic, but please make sure you are sure you’ve got the right plant before cooking them up.
Nettles soup is my favorite way to consume this plant. Here’s my super-simple recipe (it makes a big pot, so be prepared to share the bounty!).
*** to avoid the nettles’ stings, use a plastic bag or wear gloves when handling them.***
2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp whole mustard seed
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
- 2 quarts stock of your choice
- 2 large potatoes, cut into chunks
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme or 1 tsp fresh
- 1 pound fresh nettles
- 3 cloves garlic, mashed or pressed
- 1-2 lemons
- Salt and pepper to taste
Heat olive oil on low heat and add the mustard seeds and coriander. Heat these until the mustard seeds begin to pop. Add the onions and cook until they’re soft.
Add the stock, potatoes, and thyme and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn down to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are soft.
Transfer the stock and potatoes and onions to a blender in batches (you’ll need an extra pot or bowl to put the blended soup into as you blend the batches). Fill the blender halfway each time, and add a big handful of nettles and a bit of pressed garlic. Blend until smooth. ***if you have a fancy blender this will be quick and easy. If you have a regular ol’ blender you will be much happier in the end if you chop the nettles first***
When all of the batches are finished, pour the soup back into the pot. Juice the lemons and add them half at a time, tasting to see when it’s lemony enough (I like lots of lemon in mine). Season to taste with salt and pepper. I find that the heat of the stock is enough to cook the nettles and garlic just enough– no need to go through the process of blanching and cooling! The soup should be bright green. If you think it needs to cook a little more, turn the heat on low for a bit.
Yogurt makes a great garnish, and if you like to be fancy you can also put something cute on top (some edible flowers or chopped herbs or popcorn or a kitten). Enjoy!