Nettle and Nutmeg Soup (Vegan, Gluten-Free)
Make the most of seasonal, foraged nettles with this nutritious and comforting nettle and nutmeg soup. The rich, earthy flavour of the nettle is complimented perfectly by the warm nutty flavour of the nutmeg. This soup is made with only a handful of ingredients and it's ready in just 20 minutes!
Those of you who’ve been following me for a while know how much I love to go foraging for ingredients, and yesterday when I went for a walk in the forest I couldn’t help but notice how vibrant and abundant the stinging nettles were, so I thought now would be the perfect time for me to share my favourite nettle recipe with you guys!
WHERE TO FIND NETTLES
Nettles are in season so right now is the perfect time to make this nettle soup! If you're new to foraging, nettles are probably one of the best wild plants to start with as they're easily recognisable, but make sure to wear gloves when handling them! Nettles grow in abundance everywhere in the UK and are found in most continents. They're usually found in woodlands with damp, fertilized soil - you can also find them in shaded areas along streams and rivers. I have found that nettle plants that are foraged in damp, shady areas are usually more tender than the ones that are located in areas with direct sunlight, also the nettles in shady areas tend to flower a bit later on in the summer. Nettles can be a little harder to find in a warmer and dryer climate, in which case I would suggest asking your local wholefoods store or farmers market if they sell them. For those of you who want to try nettle soup but aren’t too keen on foraging, you can also purchase freshly foraged nettles online.
The image above is of the place I foraged my nettles. If you have a steam or river nearby, then I can almost guarantee that you’ll find some stinging nettles near the water, so it’s definitely worth having a look!
WHEN TO HARVEST NETTLES
Nettles are ready to be harvested from mid-April to the end of June. They are best harvested before they start to flower, and I would recommend picking the smaller leaves at the top of the plant as they’re a lot more tender than the larger leaves.
HOW TO IDENTIFY AND HARVEST NETTLES
There is a rather painful way of identifying these leaves: by touching one of the leaves with the tip of your finger, but I wouldn’t recommend this approach. To avoid this stinging pain, look out for bright green, oval leaves with toothed edges. Also, if you take a closer look underneath the leaves and on the stem, you’ll see lots of little needle-like hairs. You can also look out for flower clusters on the plants which will start to appear in late spring- early summer. When harvesting the leaves, you must remember to wear thick, protective gloves and protective clothing that covers your legs and arms. I once went to pick some nettle leaves wearing thin jeans and the sting got through the fabric, so I’d recommend wearing thick fabrics or knee-high boots. To pick the leaves snip the smaller leaves, around 3-4 inches long, at the top - midpoint of them stem using scissors. Nettle wilts the same way spinach does, so about one medium bag full of nettle leaves will make 2 servings of this soup.
The first image above is a photo I took of some nettle leaves that are ready to be harvested. You can see they’re still relatively small and the plant hasn’t started to flower. The second image is a photo that I took of some nettles I found in an area with direct sunlight – you can see the plant has started to flower and the leaves were generally larger and thicker towards the bottom. I would avoid harvesting the nettle leaves from the plants that have flowered.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF STINGING NETTLES
Stinging nettles are known for their medicinal properties are used in various herbal remedies. They’re packed with nutrients and antioxidants! They're high in Vitamin C Vitamin A, vitamin K and contain minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium. They are also a good source of protein, so even more reason to try them!
HOW DO NETTLES TASTE
They’re absolutely delicious! They taste like a combination of spinach and cabbage, but with a richer and earthier flavour. If you’re a fan of spinach, then you’ll definitely like nettles!
INGREDIENTS YOU'LL NEED
You only need a few simple ingredients to make this soup!! 1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium potato, cubed
150 -180g stinging nettles
3 tbsp vegan yogurt or cream
800ml vegetable stock
Juice of half a lemon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp salt, to taste
HOW TO MAKE NETTLE AND NUTMEG SOUP
Thoroughly wash the nettles using tongs or with your hands while wearing rubber gloves. Don't worry when the water darkens or turns rust-orange when washing the nettle leaves - this is not dirt, it's the process of the iron dissolving into the water and oxidising.
Roughly chop 1 medium onion and add it to a medium sized pot with 1 tbsp of olive oil. Sauté the onion for 5 minutes, on a medium heat, until tender. Add the minced garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.
Cut the potato into small cubes and add them to the pot with 800ml of vegetable stock. Let it gently simmer for 15-18 minutes until the potatoes soften. You can add 100-150ml more vegetable stock if you’d like your soup to be a thinner consistency.
Add the nettle leaves to the pot (make sure to wear protective gloves or handle the leaves using tongs), along with the ground nutmeg, lemon juice, black pepper and salt.
Add 3 tbsp vegan yogurt or cream, and using a hand blender, blend until the soup is completely smooth. Serve the soup hot with a dollop of vegan yogurt or cream on top and a sprinkling of freshly cracked black pepper.
Don't worry when the water darkens or turns rust-orange when washing the nettle leaves - this is not dirt, it's the process of the iron dissolving into the water and oxidising.
Make sure to wear protective gloves when handling the nettles to avoid skin irritation.
You can store raw nettles in the freezer for up to three months, or you can blanch the nettles leaves before storing them in the freezer. Blanching the nettle leaves will allow you to store a larger quantity of nettle in a smaller space as the leaves will wilt when blanched.
Do not consume stinging nettles raw! If you’re looking for an extra quick and simple way of serving nettles, you can blanch the nettle leaves and serve them with a simple dressing made with olive oil and lemon juice.