Nettle Soup

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Have you ever eaten nettles? The first time I ate them, they were baked, on a pizza. Wow! The flavor is something akin to spinach, but even better. The most classic way to serve nettles is in nettle soup, made with potatoes, stock, and a little cream. Luxurious and vibrant green, this soup is a bowl-licker.

By the way, you never forget your first encounter with stinging nettles. I was about 6 years old on a trail in Griffith Park in Los Angeles with my parents. My hand brushed against a plant alongside the path.

OUCH!

It felt like a hundred little needles poking the back of my hand. Soon, my skin was covered with little white bumps, proof of the pain.

What I didn’t know then, nor could possibly appreciate at that age, was how nutritious nettles are, and how delicious! Nettles have been used as an herbal remedy for thousands of years. They help detoxify the body, they are anti-inflammatory, they can help with circulation, allergies, hormonal regulation, and prostate issues. (Read more about nettles at WebMD.) You can buy nettle supplements and nettle tea. 

Nettles

Where to get nettles? Given the sting factor, you won’t find them in the grocery story. You either have to forage for them yourself (they grow wild on almost every continent), in which case, wear thick gloves, and pick the tender tops before they flower, or you can sometimes find them at your local farmer’s market in very early spring.

They are harvestable for only a short season (a couple of weeks), so if you see them, buy them (or pick them, with gloves)! You can always blanch them and freeze them to use later.

Nettle Soup Recipe

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  • Prep time: 30 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4

Fresh, raw stinging nettles sting! Wear protective gloves when handling them, until after they are blanched.

You can easily make this soup without the cream if you are avoiding dairy.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 large shopping bag of fresh nettle tops
  • Salt
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1 pound of yukon gold or russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 to 2 cups of water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or a couple sprigs of fresh thyme)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 to 3 Tbsp of heavy whipping cream

Method

1 Blanch the nettles: Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Prepare a large bowl of ice water. Wearing protective gloves, transfer the nettle tops into the boiling water. Blanch for 2 minutes.

Use tongs to lift the wilted blanched nettles out of the pot and transfer to the bowl of ice water to shock them. Strain in a colander.

 

nettle-soup-1 nettle-soup-2 nettle-soup-3 nettle-soup-4

Cut away and discard any large stems from the nettles. (This should be easier to do now that the nettle stingers have lost their sting due to the blanching.)

You should have 3 to 4 cups of blanched tender nettle tops and leaves for this recipe. Any blanched nettles not used at this point can be frozen for future use.

2 Sauté the shallots and celery: In a 6 quart soup pot, heat the olive oil and butter on medium heat. Add the chopped shallots and celery and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

nettle-soup-5 nettle-soup-6

3 Add potatoes, stock, bay leaf, thyme: Add the chopped potatoes, the chicken stock, bay leaf, and thyme. If using unsalted or low sodium stock, add one teaspoon of salt. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 5 minutes.

4 Chop blanched nettles, add to soup pot, add water, simmer: Roughly chop the blanched nettles. Add 3 to 4 cups of the chopped blanched nettles to the pot. Add enough water to just cover the nettles and potatoes, 1 to 2 cups. Return to a simmer and simmer for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are soft and the nettles tender.

nettle-soup-7 nettle-soup-8

5 Purée the soup: Remove the bay leaves (and thyme sprigs if using) from the pot. Using an immersion blender or working in batches with a standing blender, purée. Return to the pot and take off the heat.

6 Adjust seasonings, add lemon juice, add cream: Add salt to taste. Depending on the saltiness of the stock you are using, you may need to add at least a teaspoon or more to the soup. Add 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Add lemon juice. Right before serving, swirl in the cream. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Sprinkle with black pepper and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint to serve.

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Links:

WebMD on uses of stinging nettles

Nettle ravioli on Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

Nettle risotto on Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

Nettle Soup

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Showing 4 of 26 Comments

  • Celia Duke Larsen

    I am considering saving the blanching water to drink as a tonic. Thoughts??

  • Jules

    Gorgeous soup, very balanced flavors. I made this vegan by using earth balance butter, broth made from veggie base and a bit of cashew cream I keep on hand on the refrigerator. Two of us ate it all in a couple hours! The nettles have passed for the season, I look forward to making it again next year!

  • jean

    Thank you for the recipe, Elise. I first tried nettle soup during a trip to Point Reyes, and then I moved away from CA and hadn’t come across it since. Yesterday I saw fresh nettles in the grocery store here in KY and decided to bring them home and make soup. Your recipe turned out perfectly.

  • lisa

    advise fore stings from nettles, brake stems open and rub on stings, then no more ouch. Yes it works.

  • Sandy

    I just went online to do an inquiry on what I could serve along with nettle soup for company and I came upon your website and a few others also and was fascinated with your recipes for nettle soup. Homemade nettle soup has been a family recipe in my mom’s family for over 87 years and handed down.
    The original recipe was never written down but continued to be pass down through the last 4 generations. Our family recipe is German in origin. The recipe originated from the midwife who was attending my grandmother when
    my mother was born. The midwife was of German origin as was my grandmother. The midwife made her nettle soup for the whole family that day and it has been in our family ever since, although there are some variations of it due to the preferences of different family members. I thought I would share our family recipe that has been passed down to me from my mother. Our version has some similar ingredients to your recipe but also some distinct differences

    German Origin Nettle Soup
    3-4 cups cleaned and chopped nettles
    3cups diced potatoes
    3 cups diced 1/2=3/4″ ham
    Meaty ham bone or 2 meaty ham hocks (plan or smoked)
    7-8 cups water
    1-2 chicken bouillion cubes
    1-2 eggs
    Salt and pepper to taste

    Put meaty ham bone or ham hocks
    in soup stock pot filled with water. Boil
    together until a hearty ham stock is made,
    about 1 hr or slightly longer. Remove bones
    from ham stock. Add cubed ham and potatoes
    to ham stock and boil until potatoes are tender.
    Add nettles and cook until tender. Put egg(s) in to
    small bowl and whisk with fork slightly. Just before serving,
    Add whisked egg mixture to hot soup slowly, whisk soup
    continually while adding egg (will resemble egg drop soup somewhat
    after egg is added). Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

    Serves 4-6 people.

    PS Just a hint for novices who pick their own nettles, clean them, etc. Be
    sure to rinse the nettles well after cleaning them several times, if you’ve found them in somewhat sandy soil, to get the sand out completely. Wen I
    gather nettles, I like to wear garden gloves and kitchen shears to cut them with. I soak them in cold salt water and clean them under cool running water, wear plastic disposable gloves. I rinse them several times in cold water and drain, then cut them into 1-2″ sections.

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