Tag: food foraging


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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.)



  • 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

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To make

  1. 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.
  2. Peel and chop the potato into small pieces, about 1 cm cubed.
  3. Wearing your Marigolds, chop the nettle tops small.
  4. Heat the oil in a saucepan, and gently fry the leeks, taking care not to let them burn. Add the potato and stir.
  5. Add the nettles and the stock. Bring to the boil, then turn down and simmer very gently for about 30 minutes.
  6. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve in bowls and enjoy the pure flavours of this delicious soup.

Serves 4

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.

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Nettle cloth








Nettle is the first wild food of the year, and the sight of its young jagged leaves in early April, is a welcome sign that the Wheel of the Year has turned and Spring is truly here.

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Witches are not immune to nettle stings: the trick is not to mind.

Nettle is a wild plant that I treat with enormous respect and admiration, although it was not always so.  My first gardening job involved clearing a large patch of waste ground and in those days I was very hench: no gardening gloves for me, as I liked to feel the earth underneath my fingernails.  I pulled up nettles bare handed, safe in the knowledge that if you grasp the stalk firmly you don’t get stung.  Later that night I was woken from a deep sleep by hundreds of little throbbing stings in my hands, extraordinarily painful.  From that time, I have always worn gardening gloves.

There are some very good reasons not to pull nettles out.  Here are six of them:

  1. You can make nettle tea with them.
  2. You can make nettle soup with them.
  3. I am told on the best authority that you can use the young leaves to make Spanakopita.
  4. You can make a wonderful plant feed with them and will never need to buy Tomorite again.
  5. Red Admiral and Painted Lady butterflies lay their eggs on them, and the caterpillars feed on the leaves.
  6. You can crop them several times in the year, so instead of regarding them as a perennial pest, see them as a renewable resource.



The desire to drink nettle tea tends to come on in the evening.  It is pale green and strangely addictive.

You will need

  • Marigold rubber gloves or similar, to protect your hands
  • A large plastic bag, or trug, to collect the nettles
  • A large jar with a well fitting lid*, or a tea caddy.
  • A small teapot

Find a secluded nettle patch – it should be away from a road, and away from any suggestion of herbicide.  Pick your nettles carefully: you only want the the very young leaves at the tip of the stalk.  You need lots of nettles, so fill your bag.

To wash or not to wash? I don’t: the leaves are going to be steeped in boiling water, which should kill off any germs; and besides, wet leaves tend to rot.

To dry the nettles, spread them out in a warm, airy place.  I lay them out on newspaper in my spare bedroom.  Turn them carefully every few days so that they dry out. After about a week they will be dry, papery and you should be able to crumble them between your fingers.

Your container is important.  It should be large enough, with a well fitting lid, clean and completely dry.  Transfer the dried nettles into the container, and label including the date.

To make the tea, you will need a small teapot.

Add 1 – 2 heaped teaspoons to the pot, and fill up with boiling water.  Let it steep for about 5 minutes.

Then savour and enjoy. It will do you the Power of Good.