This is a great recipe for nettle and wild garlic soup, which can be made as simple or as complex as you needed to be. The best time of the year to gather wild garlic is early to mid spring and it’s also the time when nettles have young shoots, which are the best to use.
If you are looking for a soup on a budget, you can easily replace the wild garlic with chives, tops of onions or normal garlic and make this nettle soup any time of the year. You can also use the nettles like a spinach and add it to anything else that you would normally cook with spinach (e.g. other soups).
Talking about spinach, nettles have more iron, potassium, calcium and Vitamin A and C than spinach and are a brilliant addition to a healthy eating diet. They also contain a high amount of protein and fibre. I remember my mum being told to eat nettles when her doctor discovered she had very low iron levels. To get the most iron from the nettles, you can’t boil them, just use them in breakfast smoothies (like other vegetables).
How to forage for nettle
Nettles grow pretty much anywhere and if you have a garden, I’m pretty sure you’ll find some when you look properly. Failing that, you can find nettles around the edges of your local park, beginnings of forests, meadows, bank rivers and streams or fields.
Make sure that you forage for your nettles away from busy roads or walkways. It’s also better to collect nettles from a field or a stream bank that you know hasn’t been treated with any chemicals. It’s best to avoid picking nettles around agricultural fields, unless you know they are all organic.
Once you find your nettles, pick young shoots and only about 20-25 cm from the top of the nettles. Leave out old and large nettles as these can be bitter.
The best time to pick nettles is in early spring, but I regularly pick them any time of the year and just use the youngest shoots or new plants. A good rule of thumb is not to pick from nettles that are or have been flowering, as they are just too old. But if you can’t see any young nettle shoots and you still want to make your soup, just go for it and pick whatever you can. It will be still perfectly edible, but might not have as much nutrition as young shoots.
Make sure that you use a strong gardening gloves made with a thick material to collect the nettles. I use small scissors to cut the top of the nettles and use breathable material (like a teatowel) to gently wrap them and transport them home. If you are using a plastic bag, don’t tighten it too much, because the nettles could steam up inside and spoil quicker.
Once you get your nettles home, wash them in a cold water and use them straightaway. If you don’t or can’t use them straightaway, you can always freeze them or keep them in a fridge for few days.
A note about the soup ingredients
My nettle and wild garlic soup recipe is fairly basic and you are welcome to add other ingredients or swap things around. Use chicken stock instead of vegetable stock, add leeks as an extra vegetable or use rice instead of potato to bulk up the soup. You can also add a handful of foraged mushrooms if you have any.
Happy foraging & cooking!
Nettle & Wild Garlic Soup
- 1 large bowl nettle leaves (just add anything up to a 1 ltr of volume of uncut nettle leaves)
- 1 onion (finely sliced)
- 5-6 wild garlic leaves (or one clove of normal garlic)
- 1 large potato (or few small ones)
- 1 cube vegetable stock
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1-2 tbsp cream, yogurt or creme fraiche optional
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- First of all wash all the nettles in running water and pick over the leaves. Keep all good leaves and the tops of nettles whole, but discard old or tough stalks. Make sure you use gloves for this!
- Chop the onion and garlic clove (if using) finely.
- Add vegetable oil to a large saucepan and add the onion and garlic. Fry on medium heat for about 5 minutes or until the onion becomes see through.
- Peel the potato and roughly chop to smaller pieces.
- Add about 500 ml of boiling water to the saucepan and dissolve a cube of vegetable stock in.
- Add the chopped potato and nettles and boil for 15 or 20 min, until the potatoes are soft (the smaller the potatoes are the faster they will be done)
- Add half of the garlic leaves if using towards the end of the boiling time (you don't want the leaves to boil for too long)
- Pour into a suitable container (or blender) and puree the soup using a hand held liquidiser (or blender).
- Return back to the saucepan, taste, season and reheat.
- Add a dash of cream and serve with few chopped wild garlic leaves. To add extra protein to the soup, you can add a boiled egg.