Spring is a wonderful time to take advantage of nature’s bounty. Using edible wild food- plants and flowers in your cooking can be magical and tastes incredible. One of Ireland’s favorite springtime soups is nettle and wild garlic soup. The aroma of the wild garlic and the spinach-like taste and consistency of the nettle combine to make a hearty, tasty spring treat.
Using Edible Wild Food- Nettle And Wild Garlic Soup Recipe
Although picking the nettles to make this soup can be a bit painful, the flavorful nettle and wild garlic soup is the perfect companion to a large chunk of sourdough bread with salted butter or a little goat’s cheese and a glass of Chenin Blanc. Take your first sip and you’ll soon quickly forget any pain associated with making it.
Chef Seamus O’ Connell makes a version of this soup in The Ivory Tower most years in spring. It includes wild sorrel and several other greens while omitting the cream. However the version below is a bit simpler and tastes delicious.
This soup depends on fresh ingredients, so a vital part of the process of making nettle and wild garlic soup is harvesting the nettles and the wild garlic. You may know where stinging nettles and wild garlic grows but if not, you may need to do a little background research to find the right places to hunt for your fresh ingredients. Nettles and wild garlic are spring plants, so plan to make your soup during the spring.
Nettles grow rapidly in March and April. They are native to Ireland and grow wild in hedgerows, wasteland and scrub.When you go to harvest the nettles, make sure you have gloves to protect your hands. Harvest the tip of the plants, which have the most tender leaves. Once you harvest your fresh ingredients, it is time to get started making the soup.
How to Make Nettle and Garlic Soup:
You’ll need about 100grams of nettle tips and about 50grams of wild garlic. In addition to the nettles and the wild garlic, you will also need the following ingredients: 25g butter or olive oil, 1 diced potato, 1 large banana shallot or 1 sliced onion or 1 medium leak, 2 tbsp vermouth, rapeseed oil, 750ml vegetable or chicken stock, Parmesan, and Cream or crème fraiche.
The first step in making this soup is to thoroughly wash the nettles and the wild garlic. Make sure you wash away all the little critters that like to hide in the leaves. Chop the wild garlic leaves and set them aside. Melt the butter in a heavy pan and add in the vermouth. Sauté the onion/leak and diced potato until the potato begins to soften and the onion turns golden brown or the leak has softened. Next, add in the chopped wild garlic leaves and the nettles. Season and cook until they are just wilted. Pour in the stock and simmer for about ten minutes until the leaves have turned soft and the liquid is a light green color.
Once you are happy that all the leaves are properly cooked (soft), remove the skillet from the heat and stir the soup until it is a smooth, green consistency. Let the soup cool down and then puree the soup in a blender for a smoother consistency.
When you are ready to serve the soup, reheat it and adjust the seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Pour into bowls, and serve the soup with a generous spoonful of crème fraiche or cream and a pinch of parmesan cheese and a drizzle of rapeseed oil on top. Before eating the soup, draw the cream or crème fraiche through the soup. Have a basket of fresh sourdough or other hearty crusty bread along with salted butter or some fresh mild goat’s cheese to spread on the bread.
The benefits of making and eating nettle and wild garlic soup extend way beyond the flavor. Both nettles and garlic are medicinal herbs. Nettles are full of vitamins A, B, and C, magnesium, calcium, and iron. Nettles are known to alleviate hay fever symptoms and help with a variety of skin problems including dandruff. Garlic is an antioxidant and an antibiotic providing protection against infections and bacteria. Garlic also reduces cholesterol and is used to treat many diseases including heart disease, cancer, and stroke. So, not only can you make an inexpensive, tasty meal, with edible wild food, it is healthy for you as well!
Guest post by Corey Stanley, who used to live in Ireland and remembers the rather prickly business of harvesting nettles. Even so, to this day, he enjoys a bowl of nettle and wild garlic soup when spring begins to bud and blossom. He ate at many restaurants in cork city and enjoys sampling different tastes of soup.