This recipe is featured in A Taste of Home: Cultivating Resilience with Traditional Appalachian Foodways
During my childhood years, my mother served stinging nettles, wilted with butter and salt, as an early spring green. Unfortunately, she believed in keeping all the bugs and other creatures that inhabited the leaves (it was good protein and, since we carried water from a stream below, saved a step), and one of my early memories is of crunching on worm heads or finding a still white body lying within the folds of the leaves. We were not allowed to leave anything on our plates, so I bravely swallowed, but for a long time I was wary of nettles. When I moved to France for a 20-year spell, the centuries-old barnyard where I relocated was filled with nettles and not much else. I had few funds to buy fancy fare, so decided to tame them in a pot. The addition of onions and potatoes, and the simple act of pureéing removed all fear of crunching on worm heads (it must also be said that I washed them religiously), and I fell in love with nettles for the first time.
- Large pailful of nettles, or other edible weeds
- Salt and pepper
- Heavy cream
- Crusty country-style bread
1. Gather (with gloves) and wash a large pailful of nettles. Chickweed, lamb’s quarters, or a mixture of edible weeds will do in the absence of nettles.
2. Peel and dice an onion and sauté it with a few diced potatoes (skin on if organic; peeled if not). Add homemade chicken broth (frozen is fine) and nettles and cook until potatoes are soft and nettles wilted.
3. Puree with an immersion blender, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour in soup bowls, garnish with a dollop of heavy cream, and swirl around with a knife tip to create interesting patterns.
4. To make croutons, cut bread into cubes. Sauté in butter and sprinkle with salt. Scatter croutons over soup just before serving.