Nature provides a wide range of free 'weeds' that are bursting with vitamins and minerals. The nutrient levels found in weeds are often far in excess of home grown herbs and salads. Don't let this time of year pass by without indulging in the delights of nettle soup and harnessing its nutritional potential. As the tender new spring shoots rise above the soil it's the perfect time to harvest this plant. As spring advances the leaves become tough and once flowers appear the nettles have passed their peak in terms of nutrients. Spinach has an iron content of 4.1mg/100g and magnesium at 51 compared to nettles with iron at 7.8 and Mag at 71. In terms of the healing effects of nettle recipes they are said to be a great tonic during menstruation or the menopause. In Ireland the plant was also added to bedding to treat rheumatism, although I wouldn't advise trying this!
Our children were enthralled by what seemed to them as the totally mad notion of eating nettles and couldn't wait to taste the final product.
I came across a lovely little recipe for nettle soup in a book called 'Cooking Weeds: Vegetarian Recipes' by Vivien Weise which I adapted slightly. Choose plants in areas that you know without doubt have not been sprayed with chemicals or contaminated by animals. Take care not to get stung!
First collect 100grams of nettle leaves by snipping with a scissors and letting the leaves fall into a paper bag. Rinse the leaves several times in fresh water. Chop two onions finely and fry them in olive oil for eight minutes in a soup pot, stirring occasionally, until golden. Add one clove of crushed garlic, 500g of diced potato (I leave skins on) and one litre of water. Bring to the boil for fifteen minutes, then add the nettle leaves and boil for another fifteen minutes. Add 200ml of cream, milk or soya milk and leave to cool slightly before using a hand blender. Add salt to taste and prepare to be amazed (by the taste, not the photo!).
Serve garnished with grated carrot, beetroot, cheese or a dollop of creme fraise. It's delicious and you can literally taste the goodness, chi, prana, or whatever you want to call it.