Several years ago, my husband and I were on a jog in London when we turned down a dirt road that led into gorgeous countryside and wound by some horse farms and such. As we loped along, enjoying the scenery, my leg suddenly started—yes—stinging and itching. I was in a bit of shock at first, not knowing what it was, but it quickly occurred to me that I’d just had my first run-in with stinging nettles.
Not an auspicious introduction, but I certainly had the last laugh.
Nettles are a nutritional powerhouse, containing calcium, iron, vitamin A, and vitamin K. Therapeutically, nettles are often prescribed for joint pain, kidney problems, seasonal allergies, and adrenal issues. So if you can get your (gloved) hands on some, they’re well worth the potential minor irritation. Spinach is a fine substitute, although just not quite as nutritionally dense as the wild stuff.
1 pound bacon, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 onion, diced
4-5 button mushrooms, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
several handfuls stinging nettles (stems and all), rinsed (USE GLOVES!!!)
4 cups chicken broth (bonus points for homemade!)
1 cup heavy cream or coconut cream (skim the cream from the top of the can)
salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
1) In a large pot over medium-high heat, cook bacon until crisp. Remove from pot and set aside.
2) To bacon drippings, add carrot, celery, onion, and mushrooms. Stir occasionally until onion is translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and nettles, stirring to combine. Add broth just to cover the dry ingredients in the pot. Put a lid on it and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 20 minutes or until carrots are soft.
3) Working in batches, puree soup in a blender or food processor, or in the pot with an immersion blender (got my eye on one of those…). Return to pot and add cream. Bring soup back up to temp, and adjust seasonings with S&P. Serve with bacon sprinkled on top.