Nettle soup is the one to make


Sometimes an idea takes years to come to fruition. It has distinct stages such as scoffing, curiosity, acceptance then habit.

Take nettles. I used to think eating them was weird. But over the years the idea started to intrigue.

Last spring in Westward Ho! Chloë showed me a patch of nettles, and how to pick then with gloves, the freshest top leaves according to another blogger. Nettles were no longer alien as I cooked them in pasta and soup and found them delicious.

Perhaps precisely because nettles are wild and have not been cultivated or hybridised, they taste extra-vibrant and are highly-nutritious.

This spring, in Bristol, I saw nettles growing and thought “soup”. Then on Friday I overheard Leona, the owner of St Werburgh’s City Cafe talking about: “nettles and wild garlic soup.”

The next day Mike and I found ourselves on a magical walk beside the river Avon  in a mysterious part of the city. An abundance of nettles and wild garlic grew.


I picked up a discarded Tesco plastic bag (litter bugs have their place in the universe), sniffed it, found it clean and after borrowing a glove, started pinching off the fresh greens and filling the bag.

The next morning, I weighed the nettles and the wild garlic: 4 ounces.It didn’t seem enough – but it was.

I cut up a fat onion and gently fried it in 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan. I let it stew for an hour with the lid on, so the onion was soft and a bit caramelised. I was experimenting but you could fry the onion for much less time (like 10 minutes or so).

I added 900 mls of water. To thicken the soup I added 1 ounce of raw oats.

Then I snipped in the washed nettles and wild garlic, and let it simmer for about five minutes and turned off the saucepan. The soup carried on cooking with the lid on.

And it was delicious.

Can you get food more real than nettle soup?


Proud to fly the Food Renegade flag, I contribute this blog on local and sustainable Nettle Soup to Fight Back Fridays to help overturn the domination of industrialised food!


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23 responses to “Nettle soup is the one to make

  1. That sounds really good, i’m going to find some nettles and wild garlic today!

    When you said (about the onion) ‘let it stew for an hour with the lid on’ do you mean just in the oil at a low temp or do you add water to let it stew? My stews always stew in water but i can imagine stewing it for an hour in oil would really bring out the flavour.

    Cheers for the recipie by the way, i smelt loads of wild garlic round here the other day…now i just have to go sniff its exact location out! x


  2. Oh yes yes yes….I am with your there nettle soup is the perfect cleanser for a springtime detox…… I think I may well try your recipe as mine wasn’t a total success….actually my children thought I was totally barmy when I served it up to them ……. but I might have overdone the nettle content a bit….erm it turned out the colour and consistency of cow slurry….well I blended it …..I thought it was rather wonderful actually….. but I was on my own with that observation….. it had a sort of gluey gloopyness all of its own …. a rather unique consistency really and an interesting hairyness …. ……ok so nettle hairs suspended in cow pat coloured gloop was a bit off putting to my then ten seven year olds …..aaargh they still talk about it too!


  3. Oh and by the way nettles don’t work in salads….I tried it……ouch ….very stung tongue!


  4. Pandora, that’s a funny story and one that will increase your reputation as a wild woman with each retelling.

    I just came across this recipe for nettle pesto. Interesting! You blanch the nettles and then whizz them so that must get rid of any prickly bits but it’s almost raw so more full of nutrients.


  5. Chloë, my nettles-maestro! Yes, it was onions stewing in just the olive oil with the lid on. It required minimum maintenance, with the odd stir just to monitor. Did the nettles and wild garlic find you?


  6. I thought i’d save it to do my wild plant foraging till today as the sun is out and i’m going to visit some friends (who live in a yurt) this evening and we were planning on a wild stew cooked over an open fire…. mmm, i’ll let you know how it goes.


  7. I have to say that this soup was very tasty despite not being a fan of the evil, smelly, vampire repulsing vegetable but then Elisabeth tells me that the wild variety is a different plant?


  8. Evil, smelly, vampire, repulsing? Really! that is such a blokey type comment Mike. Mind you having been stung by the afore mentioned yesterday whilst I was foraging for the most tender young tips in the wood I am inclined to agree with you about the evil bit! I got stung through a plastic bag too (how on earth a miniscule hair on a nettle is able to pass through plastic and deliver such pain! the devil’s doing eh!) I am still feeling the prickling tingling not quite rightness of my phalange today…. ! Oh and my soup still turned out the colour of cow slurry ……and it did have a pungence that was rather unusual…..not unpleasant though.


  9. I am OK with nettles, it is the garlic stuff that I have problems with. I guess you have to have travelled on the tube in London at 8:00 am.

    Nettles are less likely to sting you if the are young but a good pair of gardeners gloves should do the trick. Don’t worry too much about being stung as it is said to provide relief from arthritis amongst other things, as outlined in this wikipedia article:

    Enjoy your soup ;0)


  10. Didn’t you know that garlic has to be eaten if you don’t want to smell it….?
    I was relocated to France at a very tender age and can still remember reeling away from everyone who introduced themselves to me in absolute horror as their garlic breath was something I had never encountered before (they get very close and kiss you on both cheeks) , which was yet another shock to a child who’d been taught socialization the Enid Blyton type way… ie avoid physical contact at all costs! …. It assaulted my very British olfactory senses and had a similar effect to tear gas on me actually……
    …..’sacre bleu!! est ce que cette petite fille est mal a la tete ….?
    My poor parents were very embarrassed and fed me loads of the stuff to de sensitise my over reaction.


  11. Pandora Pickle – help us out here. Is wild garlic different from garlic? One is called Allium ursinum (the wild one), the other Allium ativum. The Allium bit sounds like they are from the same family, so maybe I did lead Mike up the garden path. I myself love garlic; my immune system needs it. It’s medicinal (sorry Mike). When low, I sliver loads raw on hot brown rice.

    Pandora, did you grow to like garlic?

    Chloë, I love the sound of the yurt! And how did the wild wild walk go?


  12. Yes I think they are the same species….the cultivated form just comes out bigger just like cultivated strawberries do…..cultivated garlic has the same type of flowers only they are bigger and pale mauve colour rather than white like the wild ones (you can eat the flowers too)…float them on top of soup if you want to be nv cuisine flashy
    Yes I like garli now… the taste but not the smell of cooked garlic….. have you noticed how the smell changes dramatically when you cook it especially if its fried? …….but if I don’t eat any for a while those that have seem a bit unapproachable…………..but I have learned not to make a fuss and hold my nose now at least…..:-0
    Chewing parsley is supposed to conteract the smell of garlic breath…or….that indian stuff that they give you wrapped in leaves is effective ….not really sure what that is though…it tastes sort of aniseedy and is woody is it cardenom maybe?
    Oh gosh look at the time…..(now where did I put the stake and silver bullet?)


  13. So I went back to the yurt for dinner last night (oh, before that, for lunch we had cheese on toast with wild garlic…. mmmmm!) and as we walked through the woods we picked all sorts of edible excitements from the hedgerows and ground… like wood sorrel (yum! kindof lemony p’tang), navelwort, violet & primrose flowers, young dandelion leaves (before they flower) nettles, fresh bramble shoots and other things i didn’t recognise (placed in the ‘to be identified’ bag… good old Ray and his Wild Food’ book!). We had a gorgeous dinner of fish cakes, flavoured with nettles, seaweed and wild garlic, and flash boiled nettles/brambles on side. A grated carrot, beetroot and sprout salad with lemon, fennel seed and olive oil dressing and an amazing wild food salad with parsley and thyme picked from the garden.

    Wow, to think those things are all around me on my walks everyday and I never really noticed them (though i smelt the garlic!), apparently you can even tickle salmon in the stream running through our villiage at the right time of year!


  14. do they giggle when you tickle them?


  15. That sounds great! Some plants have their own survival mechanism against industrialization it seems. Nettles have their own armour.
    Good for them. Aren’t nettles considered weeds? I’ve always thought that a very derogatory term — weeds. Who came up with that notion that some plants are useless? How do they know?


  16. Pandora, I definately giggled when they told me that salmon had been ‘tickled’ in the stream… but i’m unsure as to how you tell whether a salmon is giggling, probably an explosion of bubbles on the surface, hehe.


  17. realfoodlover

    Hi Chloe, a wildish walk indeed. It’s true – there is so much abundance around now, and all for the picking. It’s funny, I have known about Food For Free for decades but it has taken me this long to break through the barriers in my mind!

    Pandora Pickle always gets a giggle out of me too (let alone the salmon). Thanks PP.

    Phil, good point about nettles’ inbuilt resistance to industrialisation. Weeds are “plants in the wrong places”. So it’s all about perception. Let’s defy the illusionary labels and reclaim the weeds.


  18. Reclaim the weeds!!! I love it. I discovered wild garlic and nettles in my back garden last night and had them both in my dinner of quinoa and fried veggies. Free food in my garden, that I didn’t even grow. Fab.


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  20. Barriers of the mind indeed. After 10 years of living in N Arizona, I finally realized
    a) I live in a clearing in a forest
    b) I am drinking sacred water from the mountain (our well water)
    c) You can attract a beautiful bird to fly over your roof by sending out ‘you are beautiful’ messages.
    d) animals are shy, but when they look into your eyes it is a compliment.


  21. sounds delicious – and so nutritious too


  22. Nettle beer is also doable! It’s easy and doesn’t take long before you can drink it.

    Here’s the recipe:

    6 ltr water
    • A small carrier bag of nettle tops, washed
    • Juice of 1 lemon, strained
    • Juice of 1 orange, strained
    • 750g caster sugar
    • 30g cream of tartar
    • 5g yeast


    1. Bring the water to the boil in a large pan.
    2. Add nettles, stir, then remove the pan from the heat and leave to infuse for at least an hour until it is at blood temperature.
    3. Carefully – you might want to enlist a helper at this point – strain the nettle liquid through a colander lined with a large piece of unbleached muslin into a large brewing bucket or pan. Once the liquid has filtered through, squeeze the muslin to get the maximum amount of liquid into the bucket.
    4. Gradually add the sugar, stirring constantly to ensure it is thoroughly dissolved, then add the cream of tartar, and lemon and orange juice.
    5. Finally, once the mixture is tepid, stir in the yeast. Cover and leave for 2-3 days in a warm place, until it’s obviously fermenting.
    6. Remove any scum which has risen to the top in fermentation and siphon the beer into sterilised bottles and seal with corks.
    7. Leave for at least a couple more days or up to a month before drinking.


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