Nettle Soup

The stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is probably one of Ireland’s most ubiquitous weeds, found in every hedgerow and ditch, and just about everyone has been stung by one at some point.

Not so many people eat them nowadays, but in times past they were an important fall back when food was really scarce.

They also provided a welcome change from the unrelenting monotony of plain potato soup which comprised a large part of the diet of poorer Irish people, providing a free, tasty and nutritious addition.

Nettles are Good for You!

There is an old Irish song called “In the Town of Ballybay“, about an impoverished women with many children which says:

She fed them on potatoes and a soup made out of nettles
and a lump of hairy bacon that she boiled up in a kettle

She was probably unaware of the fact that the nettles she fed her brood are rich in minerals, especially calcium and iron, as well as vitamins A and C. For poor people who did not have much access to meat or fruit, nettles made a significant contribution to the diet.

More importantly nowadays, soup made from nettles tastes delicious and there is something very satisfying in producing a yummy soup from an ingredient you gathered yourself from nature. It satisfies the hunter-gatherer lurking in all of us I suppose!

Collecting Nettles for Soup

Obviously, unless you are a masochist, you need to wear gloves to avoid being stung while collecting your bounty, though once cooked the nettle’s sting disappears.

For the soup you need to collect enough nettles to at least half fill a supermarket carrier bag – the absolute amount is not critical. Pick only the nettle tops and go for the younger, brighter green leaves.

Nettle Soup Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 bag of nettles
  • 2 medium sized potatoes, diced
  • 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
  • I stick celery, sliced into small pieces
  • 2 cups (1 pint) stock
  • 1 cups (½ pint) milk
  • Small knob of butter
  • Salt and pepper

Sometimes I add a clove or two of garlic.

Method

Wash the nettles in cold water and drain. Pat dry with a clean towel.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium temperature and add the onions, nettles, celery and potato. Stir to coat the with the butter and ‘sweat’ them in the saucepan for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, if you are using it, about a minute before the rest of the ingredients are done. The nettles should be well wilted.

Pour the stock and the milk into the saucepan, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for about 15-20 minutes.

Pour into a blender and zap. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with cream and fresh parsley and accompanied by crusty bread. Yum.

Article updated: March 31, 2017

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8 Comments

  • Simon says:

    A Connemara version on nettle soup, using sea corriander and lamb stock
     
    http://connemaracroft.blogspot.ie/2011/05/super-simple-stinger-soup-nettle-and.html
     
    Enjoy

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  • Phil Ambler says:

    The nettle enabled poor people all over Europe,to survive.In my kitchen I have jars of dried,sieved nettle to use as tea,in soups,with potatos;in gravy and dessert jellies.It balances the hormones,prevents pmt,and stimulates gently into an active lifestyle.
    Nettle is the only specific remedy for middle-age paunch that I know of that works.

  • brenda powell says:

    free food, recession busting and waistline busting, sooo good for u and your pocket.

  • Norah Beckett says:

    My Mother always added nettles to the cabbage this time of year. She said that 5 meals of nettles before the 1st of May cleans the blood. I use it myself in stir fries, cabbage and soup. It gives a great taste to the food and it is free from nature.

  • Bernard Burrage says:

    my son shannon and i use the whole plant mostly boil them up to make nettle juice which we drink cold daily when we can get it if its about we use it s a vegetable in stews and soup we pick them bare handed as we belive the stings good for us they say the roman liegionaires used to whip thear legs while on guard duty in cold climates to keap warm as they didnt have long trousers

  • Claudia says:

    I make this soup every spring, and although I hate to run into them when weeding, I do look forward to their appearance for the few batches of soup I make with them. A nice spring tonic and excellent way to welcome Spring in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S.

  • len says:

    Thank you very much for this recipe. Nettles are used for food in Romania also, especially during the spring as a nettle paste (it’s also a fasting recipe): http://www.len.ro/cooking/the-stinging-nettle-recipe/view

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