This one is an adventure, but well worth it! It’s from my cookbook, The Homegrown Paleo Cookbook. Harvesting your own nettles is easy once you know what you’re looking for. In the early spring, right after everything turns green, nettles sprout up. Try harvesting them when they’re about 4-12 inches tall, and cut down at the base. If you find them at a taller stage, just trim off the tops. You’ll know them if you step on them because it feels like you’ve been stung by a ton of bees. They’ve got tiny little needles on them which stay in your skin for hours, reminding you of your mistake. The chemical responsible for this sensation is rendered harmless by cooking. If you do get stung, all you need to do is find it’s antidote: Curled Dock, which often grows very close to Stinging Nettles. Nettles like rich soil and many old farmers know to plant their crops where the wild nettles grow.
Interestingly, nettle fiber was used in World War I when there was a shortage of cotton. They require far less pesticides and the fabric from Nettles is softer and silkier than that made from flax or hemp fiber. Nettles are rich in vitamins A, B, C and minerals iron, calcium and potassium. Historically, nettles have been used as a diuretic and to treat joint pain. They are also said to be nourishing to the adrenal glands. Right about now, I could use a little adrenal replenishment.
Let’s get going…
Go locate your nettles. You’ll need to bring a bag or bowl to put them in, scissors and a pair of gloves. Right now (early May), they look like this:
They look a little “fuzzy” at this stage. Hold the nettles with one gloved hand, and cut with the other hand. You can pull from the roots, but this will kill the plant (no nettles for next year) and will also make cleaning them harder because there will be more dirt. For this recipe, you want to collect about 1/4 to 1/2 of a pound. This is roughly the size of a basketball’s worth if you were to ball it up.
Next, you want to wash them off in a colander and trim off any woody parts. If you’ve missed the super short stage and are harvesting them at over a foot tall, simply snip the softer tops off the plant and proceed with the recipe. Now, you’re ready to start:
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 yellow waxy potatoes, peeled and diced or 2lbs of peeled Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and diced
- 1.5 QTS homemade chicken broth
- Big bowl full of nettles, about ¼ - ½ lb (about the size of a football) washed
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 TBS crème fraiche
- 2 TBS fresh chives, minced
- 1 lemon, juiced and grated
- In a large soup pot, heat the butter over medium heat.
- Add the onion and cook for five minutes or until the onion is soft.
- Add the diced potato and chicken broth.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer lightly for 30 minutes.
- Add the nettles and cook for allow to wilt. USE TONGS silly, not your hands!
- Remove the soup from heat and puree with a handheld blender.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- Combine the crème fraiche with the chives, lemon rind and 2 TBS of the lemon juice. Mix well.
- Serve the soup in shallow bowls with a swirl of the crème fraiche on top.
Note: If you’d like to avoid dairy, substitute coconut oil for the butter and coconut crème or milk for the crème fraiche.
I’ve been eating this amazing soup daily for the last week!
Image credits: Heidi Murphy