Irish Nettle Soup
Part to Use: leaves. When to Pick: spring. Stinging nettles grow in great profusion throughout the countryside in temperature regions all round the world, particularly on nitrate-rich soil. Gather them in spring when they are young and tender and not too strongly flavoured. Local herbalist Kelli O’Halloran told me that in parts of County Cork, 30th April was once known as Michaelmas night, when young lads would parade through the streets carrying large bunches of nettles with which to sting their playmates and the occasional innocent bystander. The girls would join in, of course, to sting the boys they fancied and apparently everyone enjoyed themselves! You’ll need gloves to protect your hands. If you do get stung, rub with a dock leaf to relieve the pain – happily, they usually grow side by side. With their high iron and vitamin C content, nettles were prominent in folk medicine and, like many other wild foods, they helped in some small measure to alleviate hunger during the Irish famine. Among the older generation, the tradition of eating nettles four times during the month of May to clear the blood still persists. In fact, herbalists confirm that nettles contain iron, formic acid, histamine, ammonia, silica acid and potassium. These minerals are known to help rheumatism, sciatica and other pains. They lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels to increase the haemoglobin in the blood, improve circulation and purify the system, so our ancestors weren’t far wrong. In more recent times, nettles have become a much sought-after ingredient for trendy chefs. We have been delighted by the demand for organic nettles at our stall at the farmers’ market in nearby Midleton. They wilt quickly, so use them fast.Sometimes we make nettle tea in exactly the same way as comfrey tea (see recipe) – the garden loves it!
Irish Nettle Soup
This is a particularly good version of nettle soup.
45g (1 1⁄2 oz/scant 1/2 stick) butter
110g (4oz) onions, chopped
150g (5oz) potatoes, peeled and chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 litre (1 3⁄4 pints/4 1/2 cups) chicken stock (see recipe)
150g (5oz) young nettles tips, washed and chopped
150ml (5fl oz/generous 1/2 cup) full-cream milk
Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. When it foams, add the chopped onion and potato, toss them in the butter until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover with a paper lid (to trap the steam) and the saucepan lid, and
sweat over a gentle heat for 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft but not coloured. Discard the paper lid, add the stock and boil until the vegetables are just cooked. Add the nettle leaves and simmer uncovered for just a few minutes. Do
not overcook or the vegetables will lose their flavour. Add the milk and liquidise. Taste and correct seasoning if necessary. Serve hot.
Substitute nettles for spring onions in the Champ recipe (see recipe).
Take 110g (4oz) of chopped young nettle leaves and simmer in the milk
for about 10–15 minutes until soft. Then continue as per the recipe.
6/5/2020 (SH/DA) (13208)
*Forgotten Skills Book