Gordon loves cooking and experimenting with food. He loves making new dishes, particularly with unusual or underused ingredients.
Fresh herbs - perhaps particularly parsley - are a very popular addition to many different types of soup. Do you know, however, that you may well have a perfectly good herb substitute, growing wild very near to where you live, which can be sourced for free? Often, stinging nettles are viewed simply as a nuisance or pest plant, lying in wait to punish the unwary hand or bare leg which draws too close. The reality is, however, that stinging nettles - where harvested and cooked properly - are both delicious and extremely nutritious. This page will look firstly at the gathering process for stinging nettles and secondly how to incorporate them in a quick and easy soup instead of parsley.
How and Where to Collect Fresh Stinging Nettles
The level and ease of access you have to fresh stinging nettles will depend largely upon where you live and work. It is entirely possible, however, that even where you are a major city dweller, there will be opportunities to gather edible quality fresh nettles. It is best to gather nettles in the early to mid spring, when the plants are young and the leaves are tender. It is worth carefully exploring nettle patches later in the year, however, as young plants do spring up throughout the season. You should only gather the top few leaves on the plant and be sure to wear gloves when you are doing so to prevent stinging. Do not collect leaves from plants which have already started to flower.
There are a few sensible points which you should bear in mind when selecting a location for gathering nettles.
- Avoid gathering nettles from a patch close to a busy road. They are likely to have been contaminated by the fumes of passing traffic.
- Similarly, don't collect nettles from heavily industrialised areas, where fumes are likely to be present from factory chimneys or cooling towers.
- Consider whether your potential harvesting spot is popular with dog walkers and whether man's best friend of the leg lifting gender may recently have been at work.
- Take a few minutes to scout around the immediate vicinity and look for any obvious signs of further, unnatural contamination.
The nettles gathered in this instance were from a patch in a private, securely fenced in garden. This still provides no guarantees against contamination by wildlife but is one of the best ways of ensuring the nettles are as pristine as possible. As the nettles were gathered in the month of June, it took considerable searching to locate even this small quantity of usable leaves, which is why the nettles are more of a seasoning in the soup than a principal ingredient.
List of Ingredients
|Prep time||Cook time||Ready in||Yields|
Two generous portions
- 2 pints fresh chicken stock
- 2 medium carrots, peeled - one sliced, one grated
- 1 small leek, stem only, sliced in to discs
- Handful small stinging nettle leaves, thoroughly washed and roughly chopped
- 4oz leftover chicken, roughly shredded
- 2 thick slices from semi-stale bread stick, crusts cut off and roughly diced
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preparation and Serving Instructions
- Pour the chicken stock in to a pot and gently heat while you prepare the vegetables.
- Add the carrots and the leek to the chicken stock and stir well. Simmer for ten minutes.
- Pour the olive oil in to a small, non-stick frying pan and bring to a high heat. Add the bread, season with salt and pepper and fry for two to three minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the bread turns crisp and golden.
- Remove the croutons to a plate covered with kitchen paper to drain and cool.
- Add the nettles to the broth. The heat will vanquish the stinging quality almost instantly. Stir and simmer for five more minutes.
- Add the chicken to the soup for a final five minutes' simmering, making twenty minutes in total.
- Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning as required.
- Ladle the soup in to serving bowls or plates and scatter with the croutons immediately prior to service.
Thank You for Reading and Hopefully You Enjoyed this Recipe Idea
Gordon Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on June 23, 2012:
Hi, Simone and thank you. That's very true re leftovers as sometimes the time lapse lets the flavours better infuse.
Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on June 22, 2012:
I love recipes that use leftovers- they're often so much better than the main ingredient's original dish! This looks quite tasty indeed. Thanks for the recipe, Gordon Hamilton!
Gordon Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on June 18, 2012:
Hi, frogyfish and thanks for visiting and commenting. I'm sorry you don't have access to fresh nettles but it is good that you are at least getting some benefit from them and their wonderful properties.
frogyfish from Central United States of America on June 18, 2012:
Oh, I wish I could get some fresh nettles. I do take the liquid extract for allergies, but have never eaten them. Your recipe sounds delicious!