Being a Glutton I have altered a basic nettle soup recipe to make it more agreeable to my palate by adding the wild garlic. Just using nettles makes what many people feel is a delicious soup but I am not a big fan of green foods so for me it tastes too much like a hedgerow. If you can’t find wild garlic just leave it out & add more garlic cloves. The main thing is that if you suffer from hayfever & associated allergies (asthma, exzema) then you should try eating some nettles. Even if it tasted like crap I would still eat it to avoid a summer of sneezing, itching & sleepless nights.
Last year I tried making nettle soup just to see what it was like. I didn’t enjoy it that much & figured I would not go to the trouble of schlepping to the woods with gardening gloves again. However, something strange happened. A couple of months later I was reading a post on a food blog I love called Big Sis Little Dish all about how they eat nettles as a cure for hayfever.
It dawned on me at that moment that I had not had any of my usual symptoms. This was in May – well into hayfever season for me & I had not taken a single anti-histamine. We all suffer from hayfever in my family but only me & mum had eaten the soup. Lo & behold we did not have any symptoms while everyone else was having the usual summer itching & sneezing. It could have been a co-incidence but this year I am determined to eat the nettles again & if you suffer from allergies I urge you to do the same. It has to be worth a try. I would love to hear how it goes if you do try this.
I have done a little reading about the medicinal properties of nettles & am now in awe of them. The potential health uses are incredible for everything from arthritis to lung problems (here is an excellent overview). For hayfever, nettle works in the same way as antihistamine treatments by blocking histamine receptors. Advice varies as to how often & how much to consume but last year we ate nettle soup twice & did not have hayfever all year.
The soup is easy to make & this recipe is adaptable. Add other vegetables if you have them & you can use different herbs & seasonings. Just bear in mind the amounts of everything so that you don’t water down the nettle content too much. They can also be made into a tea, used like spinach (just blanch them to take the sting out) or even nettle beer & wine. If you do add wild garlic be careful not to boil the soup as the flavour dissipates.
How to pick nettles:
I have to say that it is now late in the nettle season but I have only just got back to England. It is best to do this in March when the plants are young. However, I have found enough young plants in the woods & hedgerows to make a couple of pots of soup. They should be picked before the plant flowers & only take the top of the shoot (the top 4 leaves). They should also be stinging nettles, some varieties do not sting & do not have the same chemical compound needed to help with allergies. The general rule of foraging is to only take twenty percent of something from a particular area – this is an important rule to avoid spoiling things for everyone else & the local wildlife.
Having lived in a country where snakes (Bushmasters) are know to chase & kill people & tarantulas have fangs the size of a small finger I would like to say I am too tough to be bothered about nettle stings. However, anyone who knows me will loudly refute that claim. I hate being stung by nettles, (the most dangerous thing in the English countryside) it hurts! Take some gardening gloves to pick them & then to clean the leaves just submerge them in cold water for a few minutes. You can use tongs to take them out of the water & get them into the cooking pot. If you are lucky enough to live in the countryside they should not be too dirty. For you smog-sucking city types I suggest you soak them for longer to get rid of the pollution & change the water a few times.
Ingredients (Serves 4):
1 small onion
15ml olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 sprig rosemary (or whatever herb you prefer)
1 carrot (optional)
1 large potato
750ml vegetable stock
nettles (about 100g, or half a colander)
wild garlic leaves (roughly the same quantity as nettles))
salt & pepper
1. Slice the onion thinly & begin to gently fry in the olive oil with a small pinch of salt
2. Slice the garlic, carrot & potato. (The smaller the veg, the quicker they will cook)
3. Once the onions are soft add the garlic & rosemary & fry for a couple of minutes to release the flavours.
4. Add the carrot, potato, vegetable stock & another small pinch of salt & a good grind of fresh pepper. Bring to the boil & simmer gently for about 15 minutes. Take out the rosemary after 5 minutes for a gentle flavour or leave it in if you want a more intense hit from the herb.
5. Meanwhile clean the nettles & garlic leaves by immersing them in cold water a couple of times & draining. I use tongs to handle the nettles.
6. Once the vegetables are soft turn off the heat & add the nettles & garlic & cover. Let them wilt in the residual heat of the pan for about 5 minutes then blend.
6. Check the seasoning & add more salt & pepper if needed. Serve hot but not boiling – boiling will spoil the flavour.
The soup is great on its own but garnishes never hurt. I have tried sunflower seeds, a little sour cream & this wild garlic pesto, they all rocked. I reckon a cheesy crouton would be pretty sublime too.
I will post an update later in the year to let you know how we get on – the whole family is eating this soup at the moment. We would love to hear other people’s experiences with nettles & hayfever remedies so please leave us a comment here or on our Facebook or Twitter accounts