Nettle Soup – easy, cheap, seasonal and nutritious
This easy, cheap and nutritious Nettle Soup is made using common or garden stinging nettles. These are combined with onions and potatoes to create a simple and tasty soup that can be eaten either hot or cold. I think it is a refreshing and tasty cold soup to eat for lunch on a hot day.
Cooked stinging nettles are delicious and taste similar to spinach. In fact they can be used as a substitute in any spinach-based recipes. They have been used as a foraged ingredient for hundreds of years. Stinging nettles are also very healthy. They contain a wide range of nutrients, including Vitamins A, C and K, and are very rich in iron. In addition to culinary use, they were also used to treat a range of ailments including eczema, arthritis and anaemia. As nettles start to appear in April, they were traditionally picked as a “spring tonic”, full of leafy, green goodness after a restricted winter diet.
What you need to know about eating stinging nettles!
- Stinging nettles sting because the hairs on their leaves contain formic acid. Heat neutralises this so that cooked nettles will not sting you. I have been told that you can eat raw nettles if you pulverise them in a blender or mortar and pestle but I have never tried this!
- Cooked stinging nettles taste similar to spinach and can be used as a substitute in any spinach-based recipes. I think they taste fresher and have a bit more substance than spinach.
- It is essential that you only pick stinging nettles, or any other foraged food, that you are certain has not been treated with pesticides, herbicides or any other chemicals. If you have them in your garden, that is ideal. If you are sourcing them elsewhere, I would recommend picking those that are not just by a footpath used by dog walkers.
- You need to wash the nettles thoroughly before you use them in order to ensure that any dirt or small insects are removed. I generally put the nettles into a large bowl of cold water for about ten minutes and then rinse them a couple of times before using.
- You need to take care when you are picking the nettles and also when you are washing them. Until they are cooked, they will still sting. I use gardening gloves (for the picking) and washing up gloves (for the cleaning).
- The stalks of the stinging nettles can be tough and fibrous. For most recipes, it is best to only use the leaves, which you will need to carefully remove from the stems before cooking, or the new growth at the very top of the nettle.
- As with any foraged food, stinging nettles are zero cost – particularly, if like me, you have a lot in your garden – and have zero food miles.
Other easy vegetarian soup recipes
I have lots of easy, vegetarian soup recipes. If you like this Nettle Soup, you might like some of the others. All my soups are vegetarian and all can be made vegan by substituting animal fats, such as butter, for vegetable fats. Some of them are pretty simple such as Fennel Soup, Jerusalem Artichoke Soup or Sweetcorn Chowder and showcase a single vegetable. Others combine vegetables which have complimentary flavours such as Curried Parsnip and Apple Soup, Moroccan Spiced Sweet Potato Soup, Celeriac and Apple Soup, Mushroom and Chestnut Soup, Pumpkin and Sweetcorn Soup or Leek and Potato Soup. A few have more unusual combinations of flavours such as Beetroot Soup with Coconut or Butternut and Peanut Butter Soup. I also have a few chilled soup recipes, which are fantastic cold in the summer, but can also be served warm such as Asparagus and Pea and Tomato.
Other foraged ingredients
I really love using foraged ingredients in my cooking. What’s not to like about fresh, tasty, free food with zero food miles? I tend to go for things that are easy to identify for someone, like me, who has very little botanical knowledge!
In April, when there are loads of dandelions in my garden, I make Dandelion Syrup which is a really cheap and easy vegan alternative to honey and can be used on waffles or pancakes or as a cooking ingredient. In May and June, I pick elderflowers and use them to make Elderflower Cordial and Elderflower Gin. The cordial, in addition to being a lovely drink, is a really useful cooking ingredient and can be used as a flavouring in lots of recipes. I use it to make Elderflower and Lemon Cupcakes, Elderflower Ice Cream and Gooseberry and Elderflower Sorbet and Elderflower Pannacotta.
I also forage amongst the cultivated plants in my garden, particularly for edible flowers. In April, I used lilac to make Lilac Cake and Lilac Sugar, Honey and Syrup. Later in the summer, in June and July, I will use lavender to make all sorts of recipes such as Lavender Ice Cream, Lavender Cake, Lavender Sugar, Lavender Shortbread and Lavender Scones.
How to make Nettle SoupPrint
This simple, easy, healthy and cheap soup combines nettles with onions and potatoes.
- 50 g butter or 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- 2 large onions
- Salt and pepper
- 3 large potatoes
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 litre vegetable stock
- 100 g stinging nettles
- A little double cream (optional)
- Some chopped chives (optional)
Heat the butter or oil in a heavy-based saucepan or casserole.
Peel and roughly chop the onions and add them to the saucepan. Season with salt and pepper and very gently fry them for around 15 minutes until they are soft and sweet. It is really important to add seasoning at this point and to cook gently to bring out the flavour of the vegetables – it will make a huge difference to the taste of your soup.
Peel and chop the potatoes and add them to the saucepan. Then add the peeled and crushed garlic cloves. Continue to cook slowly for a further 5 minutes.
Then add the vegetable stock to the saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.
Wash your nettles thoroughly. Remove any thick stalks. Add the leaves and thinner stalks to the saucepan. Cook gently for a further 5 minutes until the potatoes have softened.
Turn off the heat and allow the soup to cool slightly before blending.
When you are ready to serve, you can add a swirl of double cream and a sprinkle of chopped chives to the top of each bowl.
It is really important that you pick nettles that you know are free from pesticides or herbicides and that you wash and prepare them carefully. See blog post for instructions.
You can serve this soup hot or cold. If you want to serve it cold, you may wish to thin it out by adding a little fluid. You can use more stock or, alternatively, use water or milk.
This soup is vegetarian and can be vegan if you use vegetable oil rather than butter and omit the cream or use a non-dairy alternative.
Keywords: nettles, stinging nettles, soup, foraged food, food for free, vegetarian