How could anything this healthy be so totally delicious? Nettle soup has a growing fan base across the country and for good reason. Nettle leaf is delicately flavored and cooks to a smooth silky texture. The prickly little needles are completely gone. No other vegetable in our experience provides the texture that nettle does. And around here the flavor is just a great bonus: my grandson Frederick who boycotts all “green” food will eat nettle soup because he sees a direct connection between eating the soup and fighting his seasonal allergies. (Find a powerful before/after discussion here.)
Use a flavorful rich chicken bone broth to complement the nettle and you have a luscious soup. With just a bit of seasoning, you could stop there or you could go for a richer soup experience by adding heavy cream. Cream and green make a perfect marriage. The cream mellows the green and brings out a bit of sweetness.
If you are going to enjoy this soup, you will probably have to collect your own nettle. It’s rare to ever find nettle for sale, even in the farmers’ markets.
Here are a few tips for foraging:
- Look in damp places. Nettle is a big drinker.
- Wear leather gloves and bring clippers. Have little, if any, direct contact with the nettles.
- If you get stung, look for some lamb’s quarters to crush into a poultice. Apply the poultice to your stinging places.
- When possible, collect nettle that has not yet bloomed. It is milder than the blooming nettle.
- Clip the tops of the plant. Do not pull it. The plant will continue to grow and provide a number of harvests, depending on your climate.
- If you happen on the mother lode of a nettle stand, plan to freeze nettle leaves for soups through the year.
The recipe that follows is a starting point — change it to suit your own tastes. You may like more or less greens. We have made soup so dense with greens that the greens were the thickening as well as the flavor. That’s a lot of green!
It is also a lot of nutrition. Eat a green soup like this for a few days in a row and you will experience a fine boost in energy and sense of well-being.
Are you persuaded? Here’s how to do it.
Nettle Soup Ingredients
- 1 quart rich chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2 tablespoons oil of choice (chicken fat is tasty in this soup)
- 4 cups nettle leaves, well washed
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
For Cream Soup (optional)
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons thickener of choice, like tapioca flour
Nettle Soup Steps
- Heat the broth to a simmer in a large soup pot.
- While the broth is heating, saute the onion and garlic in the oil using a medium skillet.
- When the broth comes to a simmer, add the sauteed vegetables and the nettle leaves.
- Gently stir the soup for about two minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the soup to rest for 10 minutes before serving it.
- Taste for salt and pepper. Make necessary adjustments.
- If you want a cream soup, mix the thickener with the cream and beat it with a whisk to break down any lumps.
- Bring the soup back to a simmer and slowly stir in the thickening mixture. If the soup is too thick, add more broth or water.
This soup freezes well if not a cream version. The texture of cream can get weird when frozen.
Just for fun: Identifying and harvesting stinging nettle. Some really helpful how-to in a 10 minutes by the Green Deane at Eat the Weeds