I’m going to go out on a limb here (though I think it’s a pretty sturdy limb) and guess that you usually avoid stinging nettles. My first childhood experience with the tiny teeth of the woods was enough to teach me to give them wide berth, though on that particularly prickly woodland romp, my parents also made sure I met jewelweed (stinging nettles’ natural neighboring antidote – also helpful for poison ivy). It’s so interesting when nature offers poison and remedy as nearby neighbors.
What does this have to do with soup? It turns out that stinging nettles may help alleviate allergies and hay fever and are particularly good for you, presuming you bite them first.
Let the forager in you lead you to the woods this time of year and there are quite a few offerings (morels, mustard greens, and even garlic mustard, anyone?). But you’ll want to use gloves for these ones! I recommend standard kitchen gloves for dexterity, though any impervious gloves will do. Pick from plants shorter than knee-high for tenderness, and just pluck the top of each plant (typically a cluster of 4 leaves), as the stems can be tougher.
Make like the Swedes, who traditionally usher in spring and summer with nettle soup, and try out the extremely green and pleasant recipe here. Or use them in one of these other delicious-looking recipes – they can be used however you like once blanched to remove their sting, and their flavor’s been likened to spinach, cucumber, and… the forest! Nothing boosts your system like a little forest foraging and kitchen magic to transform this leafy green from foe to friend.
Stinging Nettle Soup
Adapted from this recipe
1 lb. stinging nettles
2 t. salt
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 white onion, diced
1/4 c. basmati rice
4 c. chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
juice of 1/4 lemon, to taste
to serve: sour cream or crème fraîche or plain yogurt and a drizzle of olive oil
Bring a large pot of water to a boil with 2 teaspoons of salt. Drop in the stinging nettles and cook 1 to 2 minutes until they soften. This will remove most of the sting. Drain in a colander, then rinse with cold water. Trim off any tough stems if there are any, then chop coarsely.
Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat and stir in the onion. Cook until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the rice, chicken broth, and chopped wilted nettles. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the rice is tender, about 15 minutes. Puree the soup with an immersion blender and season to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche or plain yogurt and a drizzle of olive oil.