Although April is green and lovely, for the people of the past, it was ironically the start of the ‘hungry gap’, when last winter’s stored roots were eaten and there was not much by way of fresh vegetables until June. For those who had to grow their own food and eat seasonally because they had no choice, nettles must have been a welcome gift.
So here is a recipe for Green Nettletop Soup, made with the tender top leaves of nettles. When the nettles are cooked, they loose their sting. But don’t put raw nettles in your mouth! Nettles have a definite green taste, a bit like spinach.
When you pick them, choose only the tender top leaves and wear rubber gloves. (See previous post N is for Nettles.)
TO MAKE GREEN NETTLE-TOP SOUP
- Leeks, 2 large
- Potato, 1 about the size of your fist
- Nettle tops, about 2 hand fulls
- Oil for frying 1 TB
- Stock 1 litre
- Salt and black pepper
- Remove the manky outer leaves of the leek. Slit the green part vertically to expose the lurking grit, and wash carefully under cold running water to remove it. Slice the leeks finely into rings.
- Peel and chop the potato into small pieces, about 1 cm cubed.
- Wearing your Marigolds, chop the nettle tops small.
- Heat the oil in a saucepan, and gently fry the leeks, taking care not to let them burn. Add the potato and stir.
- Add the nettles and the stock. Bring to the boil, then turn down and simmer very gently for about 30 minutes.
- Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve in bowls and enjoy the pure flavours of this delicious soup.
And finally a bit of Nettle Lore…
It is said that in the First World War, the uniform of the German army was made from nettle cloth. Ray Harwood, Professor of Textile Engineering at De Montfort University, heads up a research project into the use of nettles to make sustainable textiles. The stem fibres are woven into a yarn that is cool in summer and warm in winter, a bit like linen.
More remarkable though, are the remains of nettle cloth worn by bronze-age Danes in the National Museum of Denmark.