Backyard Foraging: Spring Nettle Soup

Backyard Foraging: Spring Nettle Soup

Today it is spring. It has been for a several weeks, but I didn’t want to acknowledge it until today. I am so grateful for the beautiful rain, whether gentle, steady or down pouring, and I want more. I want to wake up to raindrops outside my window in the middle of the night and bake cookies in a cozy kitchen while watching the drizzle in the backyard and waiting for a rainbow hunt with my kids around the block.

Today it is spring in my garden, lush and green with overgrown (and overpowering) arugula, Slovak Solistice radishes, a sea of nasturtiums, turnip greens and wild edible weeds like stinging nettle, mallow and lamb’s quarters.

I have stepped around the nettles’ stinging leaves and stems for a couple weeks waiting for them to grow taller, but with the warm, inviting weather this week, I knew I had to get them in a pot before my husband put them in the compost. He is not as tolerant as I am of a friendly little bite by our nutritious and wild yard.

Granted, I think I am not reacting to the sting as much these days. I clearly remember the first time my bare skin came too close to a nettle in college when I worked at the campus organic farm. A friend had carefully harvested some to use later in an anti-allergy eye drop solution and I inspected the plant too closely. My hand felt held the sting intermittently all afternoon!

Usually, I infuse nettle leaves in a half gallon jar, pouring a cup of just-boiled water over each handful and capping the jar tight. Four hours later, my mineral-rich tea is ready to deliver, a liquid multivitamin, its goodness to my body. Sometimes I forget and wait all day before straining and still enjoy the greenness of the tea, though it gets a touch bitter as time goes on. Usually I buy dried leaves for this purpose, but today it is spring and nettles are free!

On this sunny spring day, however, I wanted to make soup. I adapted a nettle recipe from SimplyRecipes.com to what I could forage in my garden and pantry.

Nettle Spring Soup

Ingredients:

1/2 c shallots, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 c yellow potatoes, cubed

3 slices lamb bacon, chopped

2 tsp rosemary, dried (or 2 Tbsp fresh)

1 bay leaf

2 Tbsp salt

1 tsp pepper

5-6 c broth

4 green onions, sliced

1/2 c cream (dairy or coconut)

Large bowl of fresh nettle leaves

Small bunch of other greens (turnip, mallow, lamb’s quarters)

Procedure:

I wanted to be sure the nettles’ stingers were deactivated, so after:

  1. Harvesting with gloves
  2. Stripping leaves from the stems (still with gloves!)
  3. Soaking and rinsing in a bowl of water (aided by tongs)

…I blanched the leaves in filtered, boiling water (which I reused with the broth in the soup) then dunked in ice water. I nibbled a few leaves and stems to make sure the stinging hairs had been tamed before chopping and setting aside. Success! But honestly, I think I’ll skip this step next time and just add the nettles along with other greens for the last few minutes of cooking.

Next, combine shallots, garlic, potatoes, herbs, broth and bring to a boil. Add green onions, nettles and other greens. Add cream last and puree.

Garnish with a pat of butter or ghee and a sprinkle of coarse sea salt to taste. Enjoy a mug of this soup out in the garden.

 

Originally published the 1st of March, 2017.