Stinging nettle is healthy and delicious. You just need to know how to forage and prepare it! Try this deliciously simple spiced stinging nettle soup. It is an Indian-flavored lentil soup (dal) that is perfect for featuring this spring green.
I had never heard of stinging nettles before moving to Ireland. Then one day, just a few months after we arrived, Max grabbed onto a leaf and immediately started screaming. When I looked at his hand, he had blisters forming on his little toddler fingers.
Luckily the Irish are really friendly, so I already had a few numbers on my mobile phone. I called around and was introduced to stinging nettle along with an instant cure: rub dock leaf on the affected area. It worked right away and my friendship with the mom on the other end of the phone was solidified.
Harvesting stinging nettle
I’ll admit that it took a bit of work to go from a fear of stinging nettle to actually harvesting it to eat. That mainly was brought about by two things:
- Joining Transition Towns, which had a focus on local foraging.
- A plentiful supply of wild nettles that was fresh, nutritious, and free!
We ended up eating a lot of nettles. Here’s some advice on how to prepare and harvest stinging nettle.
- Only pick young nettle: Stinging nettles are the tastiest as tender spring shoots. I tried cooking them in August and we were all “stung” while eating. Not a pleasant experience. If you continuously pick from the same patch you will be able to extend the life of the young nettle into the summer.
- Cover up: Wear rubber gloves, boots, and long sleeves while harvesting to avoid being stung.
- Only pick clean nettle: Avoid picking from roadsides as dirt and exhaust on the greens are not very appetizing. Try finding patches of nettle in parks or along walkways. I’ll admit it’s pretty hard to find nettle now that we’re back in the Pacific Northwest. Whenever I find a nice patch, the park board tends to get rid of it.
- Cleaning nettle: Wear rubber gloves while cleaning the nettle. The stems are too fibrous to be fun to eat, even pureed into a soup. So pick the leaves off of the stems and wash them in a salad spinner.
- Cooking: Cooked young nettle leaves don’t sting at all. Use them the same way as you would use spinach. Try them in all your favorite recipes: on pizza, in an omelet, or in crepes.
Why bother going through all the trouble of using stinging nettle when spinach is so much easier?
- You can pick it yourself for free.
- It’s healthier than spinach.
- Adds a bit of “je ne sais quoi” to your dinner.
- Heat the oil in the bottom of a soup pot. Saute the onion until lightly browned.
- Add the garlic and all of the spices. Fry for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.
- Next, add the lentils, stock, and nettle. Simmer until the lentils are cooked, about 15 minutes.
- Add the salt to taste.
- Serve with naan bread and a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkle of cilantro.
- Garam masala can be quite hot. It's fine to leave it out for a not-so-spicy soup.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 379Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 9mgSodium: 1145mgCarbohydrates: 38gFiber: 15gSugar: 8gProtein: 17g