My family was suspicious as they approached the supper table. “What’s that?” they ask head tilted sideways as they eyed the green concoction lovingly being ladled into their bowls.
I attempt a decoy, “Mmm, hot cheese biscuits fresh from the oven.”
But they’re on to me, “Yeah, but you usually make those when you’re getting us to try something new – what’s the green stuff?”
There was nothing left to say, it was time to fess up, “It’s stinging nettle soup.” Followed quickly with, “But it’s really good. Try it, you’ll like it.”
The biscuit bribe succeeded in getting them to take the first taste of the soup, its mild, pleasant taste spurred them on to gobble it up with a surprising “Oh, this actually is good.” And so, supper ended on a high note with everyone’s body being injected with a big dose of green food power delivered by the stinging nettle. Stinging nettle is rich in Vitamin A, C, D, K, iron, calcium and a protein. If you think spinach and kale are nutrition super stars, you’ll love stinging nettle!
I knew they really liked it the next day when my 13 year old and hubby requested leftover stinging nettle soup for lunch. Yes!
NOTE: Since I first posted this recipe, I now make Stinging Nettle and Cheese Biscuits to go with this soup.
What about the fact that it stings?
Oh yeah, that. There’s no doubt about it, stinging nettle stings or rather burns. Not only does it have fine prickly spines, but those “guard hairs” actually release a burning chemical mixture (formic acid) onto and into your skin. Almost immediately, you’ll feel a burning sensation that may last a few minutes or a full day. However, when boiled, steeped, steamed or dehydrated the stingers are ineffective and perfectly safe to eat.
To prevent close encounters with fresh stinging nettle, I wear long pants, long sleeves and use gloves when harvesting this wild edible.
I’ve known stinging nettle all my life, but it wasn’t until a Wild Edibles Adventure with botanist and super wild edibles expert Laura Reeves, that I learned just how delicious and nutritious this often frowned upon plant can be.
While you can harvest stinging nettle all summer, the tender new leaves forming now are ideal for tossing into soups, stews, biscuits and breads. Use scissors to cut only the top few leaves. This will allow the plant to regrow and continue to thrive and produce throughout the summer.
For our soup, I picked about 4 to 6 cups of loosely packed leaves.
After a quick wash, I separated the leaves from stems to allow me to cook the stems longer and add the leaves at the very end of the soup.
Stinging Nettle & Potato Soup
- 6 cups lightly packed stinging nettles
- 1/2 tbsp canola oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 medium potatoes, cut into small cubes
- 5 cups soup stock
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp chopped dill
- With rubber or latex gloves, wash and rinse stinging nettle.
- Separate the leaves from the stems and keep both piles separately.
- Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
- Add onion to pan and cook until starting to soften, about 2 minutes.
- Add garlic and potatoes to pan, cook for 5 minutes over medium heat stirring every minute or so until potatoes begin to stick. Do not allow onion or garlic to brown.
- Roughly chop stinging nettle stems and add to pan.
- Add stock to pan, bring to boil and then simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until potatoes and nettle stems are soft.
- Add nettle leaves and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes.
- Remove from heat.
- Use an immersion blender to puree all ingredients into a smooth soup.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Add chopped dill.
By adding the nettle leaves at the very end and only cooking them for 2 minutes, you'll get a nice bright green color.