Tender-handed stroke a nettle
And it stings you for your pains;
Grasp it like a man of mettle,
And it soft as silk remains
From the nettle’s lesson. Proverb, 1753.
Nettles (Urtica Dioica) are worth searching for; used throughout the world to build vitality, they are delicious and once cooked they have a delicate flavour and a pleasant texture. I always look forward to finding the first young nettles of spring to make soup, infusion or pesto; it’s a great way to mark the start of the growing year.
Nettle tops are best gathered- carefully- before they set flowers, nettle stings causes temporary burning and irritation so make sure to wear gloves. Avoid nettles close to roadsides and select only the fresh, young top growth. If nettle doesn’t grow where you live, you may find them at farmer’s market. Nettles lose their sting once chopped, dried, or cooked.
The nettle is a perennial plant full of iron, calcium, magnesium and nitrogen, which makes it incredibly nutritious for both plants and humans.They also increase circulation and provides external treatment for arthritic pain, gout, sciatica and neuralgia. Rich in minerals, they increase the hemoglobin in the blood, purify the system and have a generally toning effect on the whole body.
According to Chinese medicine, nettles are a yin and blood tonic that support the bladder, kidney, spleen, and liver. They also have diuretic properties and enrich the blood, thicken the hair and may help reduce blood sugar levels. Nettles reduce pitta and kapha and can be used, in moderation, by vata.
3 garlic cloves, cut in half
2 cups blanched chopped nettles (if you can’t find nettles you can substitute them for more watercress, sorrel or chard)
1 cup radish greens, chopped
2 cups arugula or spinach
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Few stems of fresh marjoram or oregano
1 inch stick kombu seaweed (optional)
Crème fraîche, chive blossoms or sweet violet for garnish.
1.Warm the oil in a large soup pot. Add the onions and garlic and cook over medium heat for several minutes until the onion is soft.
2.Add the potatoes and all the greens. Cook until the greens are wilted. Add the vegetable broth, 1 teaspoon salt and kombu.
3.Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the potatoes are soft.
4.Cool lightly, remove the marjoram or oregano and pour into a food processor and purée until smooth.
5.Adjust salt and add freshly ground pepper. Serve with crème fraîche and decorate with sweet violet or chive blossoms.