Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spring Recipe: Nettle Soup

Traditional Chinese nutritional theory advises us to include in our springtime diet foods that match the energetic quality of spring: light, energetic, ascending, expansive. That means it's a great time of year to incorporate fresh greens, young plants and sprouts into our meals.

If you're especially hardy, you can forage fresh greens like chickweed, dandelion, and miner's lettuce growing wild in the East Bay hills right now. These can be incorporated into soups and salads; but please forage respectfully and not from areas where the soil or surrounding air may be contaminated.

Nettles are a favorite springtime plant that can be harvested or found at farmer's markets at this time of year. (Be sure to wear gloves when working with them because they sting!)

The following recipe is adapted from British author Penelope Ody's book The Chinese Herbal Cookbook: Healing Foods from East & West. If you can't find nettles, you can use any fresh leafy green vegetables in place of nettles.

About nettles, Ody writes:

"Nettle soup is a classic spring cleanser eaten for generations in Europe as a healthy tonic full of vitamins and minerals to help strengthen the body after a long winter.

Winter diets are no longer so deprived, but eating nettles in spring is still an excellent way to cleanse the system. Nettles act as a purifier for the blood, clearing toxins, lowering blood pressure and with a diuretic action to help flush the system.
miner's lettuce

Stinging nettles are a common weed generally found on neglected wasteland, in compost heaps or in hedgerows. When the plants first come up in spring, they can be difficult to distinguish from other common weeds. If you pull up the plants the roots are a characteristic dark yellow; if still in doubt, confirm by touching the plant with your bare fingers -- the stings are very mild in the early spring....

Nettle soup should really only be made in the spring, as later in the year the nettles become coarse, unpleasant to eat -- and the stings hurt!"
nettles - foraged



  • 225g/8oz young nettle leaves
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, chopped (Stephanie's addition)
nettles - chopped

  • 1 medium potato, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 quart vegetable or meat stock
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • creme fraiche to serve


Remember to wear rubber gloves when preparing your nettles: wash & finely chop. Set aside.

Heat the butter in a saucepan and saute the onion & potato for 2-3 minutes, then add the stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the potato is soft and the stock is thickening.

Add the chopped nettles and return to a simmer for a further 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

If you prefer a smoother soup, blend with an electric whisk or in a blender or food processor; then gently reheat for 1-2 minutes before serving. Serve each portion topped

with a spoonful of creme fraiche.

nettles with horsetail plant

Ody, Penelope; Lyon, Alice; Vilinac, Dragana. The Chinese Herbal Cookbook: Healing Herbs from East & West. London: Kyle Cathie, Ltd., 2000.