Last Sunday, I went to the first in a series of classes I am taking on identifying and using edible wild plants. It was fantastic- so fun to be outside on a lovely day, refreshing my memory about some plants that I am already familiar with, but learning many new things, as well.
Do you know about Stinging Nettle?
My friend Halyna, the teacher of my wild plants class, grows a ton of it. I am going to follow her lead and plant a big patch because while it does grow wild, I have never found any on my property (though I am going to keep looking). Nettle is an incredible plant, rich in vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. Nettle is particularly high in calcium, magnesium, chromium, and chlorophyll, and herbalist Susun Weed refers to nettle leaves and stalks as an “everyday nourisher”. Nettle is a notable ally to the kidneys, the digestive system, the respiratory system, and women’s reproductive health. It’s also amazing for the skin and for the hair.
Since it’s covered in prickly hairs that sting due to the presence of formic acid (hence the name: Stinging Nettle), you should always wear protective clothing and gloves when you harvest nettle. Once dried or cooked, nettle no longer stings.
I took home a bunch of nettle from Halyna’s house and decided to cook up a spring tonic soup after tasting the amazing one she had made and served to our class. I added dandelion greens that I plucked from my yard (these are also extremely nutritious: they’re high in beta-carotene, vitamin C, calcium, and potassium), as well as some ramps I bought at the Farmer’s Market. This soup is flexible: if you don’t have access to wild greens, use kale, spinach or another green instead. And if you have access to additional wild greens, like yellow dock, feel free to toss some in.
This is a perfect introduction to wild foods if you are not familiar with them: the greens are not at all bitter when prepared this way so the whole family can enjoy this soup. Feel free to sub in carrots and a different squash (or sweet/red/white potatoes) for the turnips and kabocha squash, if you like.
I ate this soup with my favorite multi-grain bread, slathered with goat cheese and topped with wild violets. Yup, you can eat violets, too: if you’ve got lots of them popping up on your lawn, you can give this recipe for violet jelly a try.
Recipe for Spring Tonic Soup
- *2 cups chopped fresh nettle tops
- *1 1/2 cups chopped fresh dandelion greens
- *1/2 cup chopped ramps
- *2 cups water
- *1 large onion chopped
- *2 tablespoons olive oil
- *2 turnips chopped (about 1 cup), or use 2-3 chopped carrots
- *approximately 2 cups chopped kabocha squash or use a different winter squash, or chopped sweet, red, or white potatoes
- *6 cups water
- *Miso to taste optional
- 1. Wash and chop greens. Simmer in 2 cups water (or as much as you need to cover them) until very tender (about 15 minutes).
- 2. Saute onion in olive oil over medium heat until golden. Add the onion, along with the ramps, turnips and squash, to the nettles and dandelion greens. Add 6 cups water and simmer for 30 minutes until vegetables are very tender.
- 3. Turn off water and stir in miso to taste (I used about 2 tablespoons of a sweet white miso, but you can use any type of miso, and you may like this with a little more) right before serving.