Nettle, the root word for ‘Nettlesome’, is a plant that grows wild in most climates all over the world. Nettlesome is defined as “causing vexation; irritating”. Anyone who has brushed up against nettles accidentally can attest that they are indeed irritating. The leaves of the plant contain long hairs that inject a chemical into the skin that causes irritation when touched. That said, the nettle plant has long been known to have beneficial characteristics as well. It helps decrease inflammation and can lower blood sugar and blood pressure. It can be used as a tea, a tincture and is often used in hair and skin tonics. The sting is neutralized when the leaf is cooked or steeped for tea.
Nettles have a long history of use dating back to the ancient Greeks. They were also used by Roman soldiers who rubbed the leaves on their skin to keep themselves warm. It doesn’t sound like much fun but I can understand how it would have been effective. Nettles grow abundantly here in Northern California and are frequently available at Farmers’ Markets this time of year. Triple T Ranch in Santa Rosa sells at the Veterans Building Farmers’ Market and have had nettles for sale the last few weeks.
This is a very quick soup to put together and if you are uncertain about working with nettles, spinach is a good substitute. February 4th is #NationalHomemadeSoupDay so go make soup!!
3 tablespoons McEvoy Ranch Traditional Blend Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 medium size onion, roughly chopped
2 leeks, cleaned and sliced
1 medium potato, scrubbed and roughly cubed
3 bunches of nettle leaves removed from stem and rinsed
6 cups of water, stock, mineral broth or bone broth
Lemon juice and zest for garnish
Note: Use gloves when handling nettles. If you have sensitive skin, it may be a good idea to double up on the gloves or to use heavy dishwashing gloves. Be very careful in how you dispose of the stems. You may want to blanch them if you are composting so that no humans or four-legged friends get a sting!
Warm the olive oil in a soup pot. Add onions, leeks and 1 teaspoon sea salt and pepper if using. Saute covered on a low heat until onions are translucent. Stir frequently and turn down heat if onions are starting to brown. You may add a little water if necessary.
When onions are translucent, add potato and water, stock or broth. Simmer until potato is tender. Add all the nettles at once. Stir into the hot liquid until nettles have completely wilted.
Blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Alternatively, transfer to a blender and blend until smooth. Taste and season with lemon juice, zest and additional salt if needed.