by | May 9, 2013 · 9:35 pm

Well, I haven’t had any success growing vegetables in my garden yet, but I have an abundance of nettles that are happily growing there ;)

Nettles

What many people don’t realise is that nettles are actually a ‘super food’, packed to the brim with nutrients.

“High in potassium, iron, sulphur, vitamin C, vitamin A and B complex vitamins nettles provide a high amount of dense nutrition with very little calories. The sulphur makes them great for the hair, skin, and nails. In addition, the tiny hairs, besides emitting histamine, also release serotonin and acetylcholine, two neurotransmitters that help to suppress appetite and also settle mood. Finally, nettles have gentle diuretic properties, which help relieve water weight gain, flush the body of toxins, and purify the blood”. [Source

 

Obviously you can’t eat nettles raw (unless you want to sting your mouth to pieces) but, by simply drenching them in boiling hot water, their sting is instantly removed and then they can be eaten just like other greens.

Nettle Leaf

One of our favourite ways to eat nettles is blended into a soup, flavoured with onion, garlic, ginger and miso.  We also like to include a large sweet potato in the soup, which adds a touch of sweetness as well as giving the soup a beautiful, silky smooth texture.

Just in case you haven’t come across miso before, it’s a Japanese soybean paste that has this wonderful, rich savory flavour that makes it perfect for soups, sauces and gravies.  I’m currently using the Clearspring Japanese Organic Brown Rice Miso, which is available in the UK in Waitrose and Sainsbury supermarkets, as well as in health food stores. While the jar recommends that you store it in a cool, dark place, I keep my jar in the fridge and it’s lasted months!

Clearspring Brown Rice Miso

If you’ve never picked nettles before, here are a few tips:

  • Make sure you’re wearing gloves, a long sleeve top and trousers (long pants).
  • Use a pair of sharp scissors to snip off the top leaves from each stalk (about four leaves per stalk).  Before snipping, check the leaf to make sure there are no creatures or caterpillar eggs on it.
  • Place the leaves in a colander and thoroughly wash them under running water (remember to keep your gloves on).
  • If you’re using the nettles in a soup, there’s no need to soak them in boiling water first.  Simply chop them up (still wearing your gloves) and add them to the pan.

Nettle Leaves

If you’re not fortunate enough to have a patch of free nettles growing in your vicinity, you can replace them with another green, such as kale or chard.  It’ll taste just as nice ;)

Nettle Soup with Ginger & Miso

While it’s not the prettiest soup in the world, it tastes delicious!  Lil’ L can vouch for this.  It’s his current favourite soup, and he loves taking a flask to school for his lunch once a week.  In fact, last week, he asked if he could have it for his lunch two days on the trot.  I really hope other children enjoy it as much as he does!

Here’s the recipe:

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Serves: 4

Hands-on time: 10 minutes    Cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients
1 onion, chopped
1 x 2.5cm / 1 inch piece of fresh or frozen ginger*, finely grated (or add more if you would like a spicier soup)
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
78g / 2¾ oz / 3 packed cups nettle leaves, roughly chopped
825ml / 28 fl oz / 3½ cups vegetable stock
1 tbsp miso

* I always buy root ginger in bulk, peel it (by scraping off the skin with a metal spoon), then freeze it in 1 inch pieces.  It lasts for weeks in the freezer and I find it’s easier to grate when frozen.

Suggested toppings:
handful of lightly toasted sesame seeds
handful of pumpkin seeds, lightly fried in olive oil
red chilli, finely diced

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onion until it starts to soften. Stir in the garlic and ginger. Reduce the heat, add the sweet potato and nettles, cover and leave to sweat for 5 minutes. Add the stock, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer until the potato has softened (about 15 minutes). Allow the soup to cool slightly, then stir in the miso paste.  Blend the soup until completely smooth, using a jug or hand blender.  Add more stock, if needed.  Return the soup to the stove and gently heat through. Season, to taste.
  2. Serve the soup in warm bowls, with a sprinkling of sesame or pumpkin seeds. For small children, the seeds can be ground up in a coffee grinder and mixed into the soup before serving. Add some finely chopped red chilli, if desired, and serve with some warm, crusty bread.

Nettle Soup with Ginger & Miso

In addition to the nettles, we’ve had great success growing dandelions this year.  Dandelion pesto will be on the menu next week ;)

Have a wonderful weekend everyone! xx

Are there any ‘weeds’ that you enjoy eating?  If you have any family recipes, please do share below :)

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