I think nettle soup sometimes gets a bit of a bad rap, perhaps it just seems a bit too worthy or maybe people are put off by remembered childhood stings on knees and elbows. When collecting nettles you should probably wear thick gloves to prevent any stings (unless you are much hardier than me), I find heavy gardening gloves are good for picking them and then rubber gloves for washing and stripping the leaves off any thick stems.
Nettles are tastiest when they are young, so ideally pick them before they flower, avoiding any damaged leaves or plants. They are at their best in the spring and early summer, but nettles grow back all through the summer and autumn so you can almost always find ‘new’ leaves. If you are picking from a dog walking area then pick from above dog leg height, for obvious reasons.
With a little love, nettles can make a delicious light (and cheap!) spring or summer soup. When making the soup it’s important not to skimp on the butter, to make sure you use a well-flavoured stock and not to boil the soup for too long as then the potatoes go a bit claggy – this is why the stock should be hot when you add it to the vegetables.
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
250g potatoes (200g peeled), and chopped into 1cm cubes
150g carrots (100g peeled), and chopped into 1 cm cubes
Salt and pepper
450g nettles (once washed and thick stalks removed)
1 litre of vegetable (or chicken stock), hot
100ml sour cream
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add the chopped onion and sauté over a medium to low heat for 10 minutes, until soft. Season with salt and pepper and a good grating of nutmeg.
Add the garlic, potatoes and carrots and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add a bit more nutmeg if you think it needs it.
Add the hot stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes until the potatoes are almost cooked. Add the nettles and bring back to a simmer. Cook for another 3 minutes.
Blend the soup using a heavy duty blender, like a Nutri bullet. Reheat until hot, but don’t boil or you will lose the bright green colour.
Serve in warm bowls with a drizzle of slackened sour cream, a grating of nutmeg and a few edible flowers to decorate.