Stinging Nettle is a nutritious and delicious addition to traditional Potato Leek soup. Use foraged greens to turn this classic soup into a new Springtime tradition.
I love capturing the first bursts of fresh Spring flavours in my recipes. Delicious Wild Ramp Pesto is a-nature based spin on a classic Italian pesto using foraged ramps (or wild leeks). It isn’t long before garden chives become crowned with gorgeous fuchsia blooms that make a stunning Chive Blossom Vinegar for use in dressing and marinades.
Nettle Soup with Potato and Leek
This Nettle Soup is a great way to use foraged Nettle greens. Their bright natural flavour pairs well with the creamy potato leek base and fresh dill.
The soup is creamy and rich but also light and bright. It’s the perfect transitional soup to serve as the desolate winter winds give way to the new growth of Spring.
Simple ingredients combined with the most basic technique result in the most remarkable Nettle Soup. Serve it with a lovely white swirl of crème fraîche or a dollop of sour cream.
Or, celebrate the new season by adding a few microgreens or edible spring flowers such as marigolds, pansies, or violets. The stunning soup is lovely as part of a Mother’s Day brunch or as a Spring dinner party starter.
- Chicken Stock
- olive oil
- fresh dill
- crème fraîche
- microgreens and edible flowers
- Stinging Nettle
The best variety of potatoes to use in a creamy puréed soup are the ones you prefer in mashed potatoes. I enjoy red potatoes the most, so that’s what I used in this soup recipe.
Try to choose leeks that have a long white portion with bright greens. Wash them well as they can often contain dirt between layers.
Chicken stock vs. Veggie stock. It doesn’t matter which one you use unless you are creating a vegetarian version. As always, buying (or making) a high quality stock will produce the best results.
Heavy Cream (36%) or crème fraîche are both acceptable cream components. However, there will be an additional flavourful ‘tang’, should you use only crème fraîche in the soup.
What is Stinging Nettle?
Spring is here and fresh greens are popping up in forests everywhere. One of the first to make an appearance is Stinging Nettle.
This forager’s delight is named for the painful sting caused by direct contact with the trichomes (or spicules) on the stalk and leaves. The tips of these small needles inject several chemicals that cause intense skin inflammation. This mechanical and chemical skin inflammation is commonly referred to as contact urticaria and it should disappear within 24 hours.
This herbaceous flowering perennial was originally native to Europe, temperate Asia, and Western North Africa. It now grows worldwide with a distribution limited only by moisture availability. Here in Alberta, the best place to forage for it is near forests and areas with moist fertile soil.
Culinary Uses and Health Benefits of Nettle
Despite its painful sting, nettle is delicious and is very similar to spinach in flavour and usage. Other culinary uses of nettle include herbal tea (dried), pesto, purées, as a pastry or dough filling (like Spanakopita), or as a cheese flavouring.
Each part of the plant is edible and is full of nutrition, protein, and fiber. Health benefits of Stinging Nettle range from boosting immunity and metabolism, to promoting lactation and regulating hormones.
Surprisingly, nettle is also quite high in protein and fiber when you compare it to other leafy greens. It also contains almost 30x the amount of calcium and over 8x the magnesium when compared to an equal serving of spinach.
This nutritional powerhouse is almost unbeatable. If it weren’t for those darn stingers, nettle would be much more popular!
How to Forage Stinging Nettle
Now that you know how nutritious nettle is, you can guess why it is a prized find for Spring foragers.
Lately, foraging as an activity is experiencing a resurgence as more and more people look for connection with the world around them. It’s a great and rewarding past time for those who love the great outdoors.
Like any outdoor activity there are risks. Learning how to identify plants in the wild takes time and patience. If you are inexperienced in plant identification I strongly recommend foraging with someone more experienced.
When you go, wear proper foraging gear such as pants and a long sleeved shirt. Bring gloves and shears or scissors and a basket or bag. Photos, or a log book of local wild edibles are handy too. Always be absolutely sure of the identity and effects of the plant before consumption.
Nettle grows as one long stalk that can reach 3-7 feet in height. The leaves which grow opposite to each other on either side of the stem have a heart shape, with serrated edges and spiky underside.
Though the leaves remain quite soft, the best time to harvest them is in the early Spring when the plant is less than a foot in height. Do not harvest the plant if it is in flower.
Wearing gloves, use your scissors to snip off the top 5 inches of the plant. This keeps the leaves from withering for a day or two and also leaves a stem should you wish to tie and dry it in bundles.
Responsible harvesting is SO important. I can’t stress this enough! To ensure a healthy harvest for yourself and others for years to come, never harvest an entire plant or clean out an entire area.
Foraging isn’t for everyone. Fortunately, you can sometimes get lucky and find Stinging Nettle at your local farmers market or green grocer.
Storing and Preserving Nettle
Place your freshly foraged (unwashed) nettle in a plastic bag will for up to 3 days in the fridge. Dehydrate the leaves in a single layer in a dehydrator or hang upside down in bunches in a well ventilated room.
Blanch (as directed in the recipe below) or steam and freeze it in handy portions to use in your favourite recipes.
How to Make Stinging Nettle Soup
Making Nettle Soup is almost as easy as making a simple potato leek soup. The only difference is the added preparation of the Stinging Nettle.
How to Prepare Stinging Nettle
Wear gloves to separate the nettle leaves from the stems. Wash or soak the leaves for 5 minutes. Bring a medium pot of water to boil, then immerse the leaves in the boiling water for 15-20 seconds.
Remove them with a slotted spoon and immediately plunge into an ice water bath. The leaves will remain a bright green colour but will have lost those pesky spicules.
How to Make Nettle Soup
Begin the soup by cleaning and chopping the white parts of leeks. Sweat them in a large pot over medium low heat along with a bit of butter and olive oil. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching.
Peel and cube the potatoes, and add them once the leeks are soft and slightly translucent. Pour in the chicken broth, cover, and bring to a boil on medium heat.
Simmer the soup until the potatoes are tender (about 15 minutes). Use an immersion blender (or Vitamix) to purée the soup, then add the chopped dill, cream, and blanched nettle leaves. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then blend once more until the soup is a vibrant green colour.
How to Store and Reheat Nettle Soup
This soup will keep in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
To reheat, place in a small sauce pan and gently reheat on low heat, stirring occasionally. If you find the soup has become quite thick, thin it out with a little water, stock, or milk.
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