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Nettle Soup

Urtica dioica


What kind of self-respecting foraging recipe list would be without a nettle soup? I can only apologise for taking so long to get around to posting it!

A lot of wild foods boast an impressive amount of nutrients compared to their cultivated counterparts and Nettle is no different. They are a fantastic source of Iron and also contain protein amongst many other vital vitamins and minerals, so are a perfect food to help recover from a weakened state or surgery.


Nettles are one of the first wild edibles to show up in early spring, at the time of year in the farming calendar often referred to as the hunger gap when we would be really craving fresh greens (if we couldn’t buy imported veg from the supermarket), flavour aside the verdant spires are a welcome sight beneath the leafless trees. They grow pretty much all year round, though by the time the heat of summer comes along nettles have generally become quite bitter and tough so you really need to get to them early for the best results. There is an exception to the rule however in that the seeds and older leaves contain a high amount of a-linolenic acid, an omega 3 acid!

Nettles will also pop up anywhere they can from seeds dropped during the summer, and also spring back quickly from mowing so there will be new growth to be found even in Autumn (and sometimes during a warmer week in the depths of winter) if you keep your eyes open for them!

Recently I had noticed just that, that there were a lot of fresh looking nettles popping up around Waki and the fields around Base Camp, advertised by a much brighter green than the older growth surrounding them.


Processing & Identification:

There is a technique to not being stung, and it is to grasp the stems firmly with your finger tips avoiding the leaf edges and surrounding foliage if you can, though inevitably one will get you at some point – or you’ll get the sneaky nettle-up-the-trouser-leg whilst attempting to step through to the good ones! ;) Although you might feel tougher in picking without, a set of gloves and a pair of good thick jeans (tucked into your socks if you’re that cool!) will save you a lot of irritation…

Ignore the larger lower leaves as they tend to be much older and therefore bitter, instead go for just the very top spire of softer looking leaves and you’ll be rewarded with some sweet iron-rich greens to make good use of.


I don’t think we need to go into too much detail about identifying a Stinging Nettle since most folks have encountered them in the past, and likely still harbour a healthy caution for them! The sting of a nettle is a mixture of irritating chemicals delivered via the brittle needle like hairs, visible on the leaves and stem, and I think most of you would agree that this defence has proved extremely effective!

Their abrasive nature means we have a foolproof (or perhaps foolhardy!) way of identifying a nettle, which is by getting stung! If you understandably don’t fancy trying that for the sake of identification you should look for the triangular serrated leaves arranged upon a long stem which can be anywhere from 1m to over 2m in height.

There are in fact quite a few species of stinging nettle throughout the globe, each with slight variations in appearance (and some apparently meaner than others!) though not enough to change the use or really to be worth discussing here today.



You can roll a leaf between thumb and forefinger to break down the stinging hairs and eat it raw as it is, or else lightly wilt as you would other greens like spinach. Wilting is the easiest and I would say the best method for preparing most wild greens as it preserves a lot of the fresh flavour and nutrients, though I prefer to have something more substantial to offer you for #foragingfriday – and what better than the cliché er traditional Nettle Soup?


If you hold no love for the nettle don’t you think it’s about time that changed? See below for the nettle soup recipe – unashamedly stolen from the master of good and wholesome recipes Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall of River Cottage. Check out the article here for his original soup recipe and also a pie and risotto recipe which sound equally interesting.

You will be needing A LOT more nettles than this! You will be needing A LOT more nettles than this!



150g young nettle tops (that's a whole lot of nettles - approx. 6 times the amount in the bowl pictured above!)

knob of butter

1 onion

1-2 small leeks

2 celery sticks

1-2 cloves garlic

2 tbsp white rice

1 litre chicken/veg stock

salt & pepper


yogurt/cream/soft cheese & chives to serve



1. Finely chop the vegetables and garlic and fry gently in a pan with the butter (always add the garlic last to avoid it burning and becoming bitter). Add the stock and rice and simmer for approx 10 mins until the rice is tender.


2. In the meantime carefully wash your nettles and get rid of any dirt and insects that might have hitched a ride - use a pair of washing-up gloves or tongs if you have any to avoid getting stung.


3. Add the washed nettles to the pan and allow to wilt in the hot liquid for between 3-5 minutes. They will turn a much brighter green and reduce in volume as the moisture exits the leaves.

4. Remove from the heat and puree with a blender into a smooth soup, season to taste and serve with a dollop of fresh yogurt or cream cheese and a sprinkling of chopped chives.

The flavour is oddly similar to enjoying a bowl of runner beans, you can tell that it's doing you some good! I admit I don’t enjoy nettles as a green nearly as much as I should do considering the massive health benefits they offer, but after trying this recipe I think that’s about to change!


I hope you like the recipe, have you tried eating nettles before? Let us know what you think of nettles in the comments below!


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Sarah is an artist and writer with a lifetime interest in camping and survival techniques.

Living the #vanlife since before it was a hashtag and touring on two wheels with her husband Ryan, they have a wealth of camping and motorcycling knowledge to share, and know a thing or two about packing light! read more

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