Stinging nettle soup is an easy and safe introduction to the wonderful world of foraging. Nettles are extremely good for you, they taste great, and the best bit? They are free to all those that take the time to forage for them!
Nettle soup is a wonderful introduction into the fascinating (and addictive!) world of foraging.
Stinging nettles are a very invasive plant, so once you find a good patch you’ll be able to go back year after year.
One quick note, nettles are an important plant for wildlife. So please be thoughtful in the amount you take from one spot.
How to Forage Stinging Nettles Safely
Stinging nettles are probably one of the very first plants we learn as children. Mainly due to that sting!
In my corner of England, they are everywhere.
In hedges, garden beds, woodland, along rivers and around ponds.
On the edges of motorways and footpaths. And there’s even one determined little plant that tries hard to live in my lawn. Despite getting regularly mowed!
Gardeners see them as weeds, but they are an incredible plant once you get to know them.
How Do I Find Stinging Nettles?
There are a few things to bear in mind if you’re new to foraging. Here in the UK it’s illegal to pull up plants in the wild by the root.
But you are allowed to pick some species of wild plants, nettles being one. If you are wanting to forage on private property, you must get the landowners permission.
First, get outdoors and find yourself a nice lush nettle patch. What do you want to look for?
- Look for a spot away from traffic. You don’t want car exhaust fumes anywhere near your food.
- And away from regular dog walking areas too. Some dogs are carriers of a bacterial disease called Leptospirosis. The urine of infected dogs can carry the disease. And you don’t want to be eating the plant that the dog peed on.
- Avoid areas that may be sprayed with weedkiller, fungicides, pesticides or any other chemical dressing. Ideally, find a neighbour with a nettle ‘problem’ that can guarantee no chemicals have been applied to the patch. Then offer to help them out by eating up their weeds!
How Do I Pick Stinging Nettles Without Getting Stung?
The one piece of kit any nettle picking wannabe needs, is a pair of rubber gloves!
Just the simple cheap ones you get at the supermarket for washing up will be perfect.
The sting of a nettle cannot penetrate the rubber. And because they’re long, they’ll protect your forearms too.
Gardening gloves are a little more hit and miss.
Any areas of fabric in the glove will likely let the sting pass through. And as they are short they leave your wrists and forearms unprotected.
And however careful you are, nettles have a habit of jumping and stinging you when you least expect it!
That said, my partner Jonny doesn’t use gloves.
He’s a builder and has tough skin on his hands. But he (and many others) say that if you grab a nettle firmly, and with confidence, it won’t sting you. Or it won’t sting you as much as if you’re gentle.
Personally, I’ll stick to wearing gloves thanks!
Are There Any Dangerous Plants That Look Like Nettles?
Here in the UK at least, no.
There are a couple of different varieties of nettle, but none are harmful to consume.
And the most common stinging nettle plant (Urtica Dioica) you’ll see in England, is the tastiest!
Are There Any Side Effects to Eating Nettles?
I use this website for all my wild plant ID & contraindication research: Plants For a Future.
According to this article, you should avoid eating nettles during pregnancy.
And only the young leaves should be consumed as older, tougher leaves ‘develop gritty particles called cystoliths which act as an irritant to the kidneys’.
Why You Should Wash Wild Plants Before Eating
Another safety aspect to eating wild plants is to ensure you wash your nettles well before consuming.
Even if a dog hasn’t weed on your patch, maybe a fox has.
Or perhaps a bird has flown over and pooped on it.
This may all sound gross, but there are many contaminants out there that you really don’t want to be eating.
Always wash your wild food before consuming!
What Do Nettles Taste Like?
If I had to sum up their flavour in one word? Green.
Yeah, not all that helpful is it. But once you try them you’ll know exactly what I mean!
I mostly use them in my kitchen in place of spinach. But they are more ‘earthy’ tasting then spinach. They taste stronger somehow.
The recipe that follows is more of a vegetable and nettle soup so the flavour is a little muted.
Once you become a hardcore nettle fan you can play around with the recipe. Add in more and more nettles to the pot to appreciate their unique flavour.
Stinging Nettle Soup Recipe
The full recipe for my nettle soup is at the bottom of the post. But first, let me walk you through the steps.
1 Prep your veggies
The most basic of nettle soups only needs (in my opinion), onion, potato and garlic.
But in my recipe below I’m also adding in a leek and a celery stick just to up the veggie goodness.
I’m going to be blending my soup so it’s thick and creamy.
But if you don’t have a blender, or perhaps you’re making this whilst camping, just be sure to chop all your veggies up really small.
2 Saute your veggies
Heat a large pan over a medium heat.
Add the oil and onion and gently cook for a few minutes until soft and translucent.
Add in the potatoes, leek, garlic, celery and stock.
Stir well, pop on the lid and let simmer for 10 miuntes.
3 Add your nettles
When the potato has softened and started breaking down into the soup, add in your nettles.
As soon as they hit the hot water they will shrink. Stir them through the soup and pop the lid back on for a minute or two.
If you’re not blending your soup:
Blanch the nettles first by submerging them in a pan of hot water. Then remove, squeeze out the water (they will have lost their sting) and finely chop.
Then you can add the already chopped nettles into your soup pan.
4 Season your soup
Add salt, pepper and a tablespoon of lemon juice. Stir well.
Being an acid, the lemon juice will balance out the other flavours perfectly. I really recommend you add it both here, and a little more when you serve (step 7)
5 Blend your soup
A stick or immersion blender is the easiest way to blend soups. It makes for a lot less washing up too!
Blend until it’s thick and creamy and has specks of bright green.
Add more boiling water from the kettle if you’d like it thinner. Or let simmer with the lid off if you would prefer it even thicker.
6 Serve your soup
I made five small bowls of soup from my pan, serving it with sandwiches.
If you are just eating the soup as a meal, you may wish to increase the portion size.
7 Pimp your nettle soup!
This step isn’t strictly necessary, but I still highly recommend it!
Serve each bowl with a wedge of fresh lemon, squeezing over the soup.
Then for a final flourish, sprinkle over a mix of seeds too.
I’m using sunflower, pumpkin and linseeds.
And voila! One gorgeous bowl of earthy green goodness that will make you feel like a superstar forager!
Can I Freeze Nettle Soup?
In fact my freezer is currently pretty well stocked with a Spring time haul of the stuff!
To safely freeze your nettle soup, simply cool any leftovers. Then pour into Tupperware or glass tubs.
I freeze mine in individual portion sizes, but you may prefer to freeze in a family portion size instead.
Stinging Nettle Soup Recipe
Thanks for joining me, and I hope you enjoy the recipe below.
If you get the bug and fancy trying nettles in other recipes, click here: Nettle Recipes
And if you make this, or any of my other recipes, please tag me in any photos you share online!
You can find me everywhere as @hedgecomber.
- 2 tsp oil
- 1 onion
- 2 potatoes
- 1 leek
- 4 clove garlic
- 1 stick celery
- 1 litre stock
- 1 handful stinging nettles
- salt & pepper
- 1/2 lemon
- 2 tbsp mixed seeds (optional)
In a large saucepan, heat the oil.
Add in the onion and fry gently for a few minutes until it's soft and translucent.
Tip in the potatoes, leek, garlic, celery and stock.
Stir well, pop the lid on and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, strip all the leaves from the nettle stems.
When the potato is soft and has started breaking down into the soup, add in the nettle leaves and one tablespoon of lemon juice.
Stir, return the lid to the pan and cook for two more minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and use an immersion blender to blend the soup. It will become beautifully creamy and flecked with green.
Serve into bowls, squeeze a little more lemon juice over each bowl, and sprinkle with the seeds if using.