Stinging Nettles are generally the ones used for making nettle soup. They grow in abundance and are best eaten before they flower in late May. Wear gloves to save yourself getting stung – Washing-up gloves give you lots of control over your picking and will shield the top of your arms, which really you would be wise to cover. If you’d rather not risk the stingers then you can try using Dead nettles as in the picture on the left. These are different plants from the stingers and they are named Dead nettles not because they will endanger your health but because, although the leaves look the same, they don’t sting. They have either white or purple edible flowers, and can be cooked in the same way as stingers.Be sure to wash the nettles well before cooking.
Nettle soup is probably the type of recipe that people have in mind when they consider cooking foraged wild foods, so despite never having ever eaten or made it, I decided I would have to give it a try. Apparently the secret to an excellent nettle soup is potato – which gives the soup some substance, and of course, as with all soups, a really good stock. Without these, your foraged feast may turn out taking like nothing more than a dish of stewed weeds.
Half a carrier bagful of stinging nettle tops, or fresh-looking larger leaves.
(A carrier bag is the standard measure for nettles.)
1 large onion (or a dozen crow garlic bulbs if you want to be truly wild), peeled and finely chopped
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock, or even light fish stock
1 large potato, peeled and cut into cubes
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp crème fraîche
A few drops of extra-virgin olive oil
A few drops of Tabasco
This recipe is taken from
River Cottage Hedgerow Handbook
Wearing rubber gloves, sort through the nettles, discarding anything you don’t like the look of and any thick stalks. Wash the nettles and drain in a colander.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the onion and cook gently for 5-7 minutes until softened.
Add the stock, nettles, potato and carrot. Bring to a simmer and cook gently until the potato is soft, about 15 minutes.
Remove from the heat. Using an electric hand-held stick blender, purée the soup and then season with salt and pepper to taste.
Ladle into warmed bowls and float a teaspoonful of creme fraiche on top. As this melts, swirl in a few drops of extra-virgin olive oil and Tabasco.