Although usually regarded as weeds (and pain-inflicting weeds at that), nettles are highly nutritious — so long as you cook them to destroy the stings. Nettles are high in vitamins A and C, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium, and throughout history have been eaten in spring when other fresh food is scarce.
My recipe is based on the one in Jane Fearnley-Wittingstall’s The Ministry of Food: Thrifty Wartime Ways to Feed Your Family Today. Jane points out that nettles were just one of many wild foods that were foraged in wartime Britain. Other items in ‘nature’s larder’ included wild nuts and berries, rosehips (boiled for Vitamin C-rich syrup), mushrooms, wild bird eggs, rabbits and even hedgehogs.
My nettles came from my backyard so I know they weren’t treated with any chemicals or poisons. Do be careful if foraging for wild nettles that they haven’t been sprayed.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
- 1 colander full of young nettle leaves or nettle tops (pick them wearing gardening or rubber gloves)
- 1 large onion, finely sliced
- 1 clove garlic, crushed and peeled
- 1 large potato (about 300g), peeled and chopped into a 2cm dice
- 1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
- 4 tablespoons cream (optional)
- salt and black pepper
- chopped chives (garnish)
- Wearing rubber or gardening gloves, wash nettle leaves carefully, and put aside to drain in colander.
- Melt butter or olive oil in a large saucepan and cook the onion and crushed garlic gently until translucent.
- Add potatoes and stock and simmer for around 10 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Add nettle leaves and simmer for a further 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Remove soup from heat and puree in a blender or using a stick blender.
- Return to heat and stir in half the cream (optional).
- Serve hot in bowls with a swirl of cream and garnished with chopped chives.