Spring Foraging, Or Avoiding Life’s Stings: Cream of Nettle Soup

Here in the Pacific Northwest, very little wants to hurt you. No venomous snakes. No poison ivy or oak. Hardly even any mosquitoes! I’ve heard there’s a spider than can give you a painful bite, but I’ve never seen one. We are the PACIFIC northwest–peaceful, harmless.

Except for nettles.

Years ago, when my niece and nephew were small, my sister came to visit from a nettle-free state. We were walking the path down to the coast, her kids running ahead with mine. I thought it best to mention, “Y’know, we should maybe warn them about–”

Too late. “OWWWWW!” came the wail from up the path.

“–the nettles,” I finished lamely.

Their sting isn’t terrible–pretty much like a bee, depending on the intensity of your contact. As I understand it, tiny, almost invisible bristles break off, penetrating the surface of your skin and killing nerve cells in there. Admittedly, NOT very pacific.

Luckily there’s an appropriate comeback. Nettles are yummy. Note: I’m not really a food blogger, so this won’t be so much a recipe as a how-to. But I hope it leaves you wanting to try nettle soup!

En garde, nettles!

Start with a good pair of rubber gloves, like dishwashing gloves. (NOT neoprene–I tried those recently, and kept picking despite the initial tingles because I was too lazy to go home and switch gloves. Result: my thumbs and forefingers tingled for 27 HOURS. I kept track.)

You’re not the boss of me.

Pick only the newest, freshest leaves at the top. (These are actually about a month older than I’d have preferred, but I’ve been traveling. Folks in northern states–your nettles should be nice and tender now!) Avoid stems. The stingy-est middle parts–blooms, actually–are just fine.

You’re MINE.

Boil a big pot of water and dump your green treasures in. As soon as they touch the water, their stings are rendered harmless. I usually just blanch them for a minute or so, then drain.


When they’re cool, cut off any remaining stems. They’re perfectly edible, just more bitter than the leaves.

Who’s a scary vegetable now? Nope, not you.

Sautee some onions till golden, then add the nettles and whatever else you like–a carrot, in this case. Cook till tender–not long.

Ah, that’s better.

Put the sauteed veggies in blender with stock or bouillon. I use about 3-4 cups for about a pound of veggies. Pour into a saucepan.

Rinse the blender out with milk, half and half, or cream–the amount is entirely up to you, depending on how creamy you like your soup. Pour into the saucepan.

Here comes the “cream of” part.

While heating, season with salt, pepper, cumin, garlic–whatever you like.

Bon appetit!

Do you have any good foraging recipes or techniques of your own? Please share!

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