What better way to say I Love You than with a fresh stinging nettle soup, right? I thought so too. My husband had a cold and was a touch off his game, so this past Valentine’s day I decided to harvest the first crop of spring nettles, spinach and kale and make him a steaming bowl of Cream Of Green Soup.
It sounds scary, but when tender young spring nettle leaves (Urtica dioica) are cooked, their stingy-ness [aka formic acid] is removed, and their flavor and texture is akin to spinach with an added touch of richness. Nettle leaves are jam packed with nutrient goodness and are a surprisingly not scary addition to soups, stews, pasta sauces and casseroles. One of my most memorable herb classes was an early spring nettle harvest. After we came back from the woods, muddy and tired with baskets full of stinging nettles, our teacher sauteed them lightly in a little garlic and butter. All of us warily nibbled at them, concerned about the well being of our tongues, then tasted and chowed down.
While I realize that nettles don’t necessarily flourish in everyone’s front yard, if you can get your (gloved) hands on some, this soup is worth it. To harvest the nettles sustainably, I essentially prune the top 2-3 sets of leaves from the plants, pinching them back and encouraging them to branch out and continue to grow for later harvest. Rinse and lay about 4 cups of the beautiful bounty out on a clean kitchen towel to drip dry.
This concoction of brilliance also has fresh spinach and kale, which both have nutrients in common with nettles. Their dark green leafiness packs enormous amounts of vitamin A, C, K and D as well as B vitamins, folate, manganese, calcium and protein, and make them logical roommates in the pot. Of course any leafy green vegetable or vegetable like broccoli makes a welcome addition to this blended elixir and I usually toss in whatever is available or in season.
CREAM OF GREEN SOUP
1 TBSP of olive oil
1 sweet onion diced
1 clove garlic minced
1 ½ boxes of organic vegetable broth
1 tsp. salt
Pinch of pepper
¼- ½ tsp. cayenne pepper to taste
1 ½ or 2 large organic potato coarsely diced, depending on how thick you want the soup to be
2 cups fresh kale leaves
2/3 cups grated organic carrot
1 cup chopped fresh broccoli
4 cups packed fresh kale & nettle leaves
6 cups fresh spinach leaves
1 cup fresh chickweed or other leafy green as available
Sauté the onion and garlic in an iron skillet or soup pot until transparent. Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Add diced potato, kale, broccoli and carrots and simmer until the potato is softened enough to be easily pierced easily with a fork. Don your shiny yellow rubber gloves and add the nettle leaves or vegetables of your choice. Cover and bring to a boil for 3-4 minutes or until the greens have wilted.
Remove the pot from the heat and let it rest/cool for about 5 minutes, then blend with a stick blender to the desired consistency. The starch from the potatoes will thicken this soup and give it a smooth, creamy texture. Get creative with the garnish – I like it with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan cheese on the top.
Oh sure, the barbs of Cupid’s arrow usually yield some kind of chocolaty goodness on Valentine’s Day. But this year when I served stinging nettle soup to my sweetie, he sighed and said “Ah, this is going to make me feel better.”