Spring has come to Minnesota, hesitantly and then with a rush. This week the trees have leafed out, apple and plum trees have blossomed, and the lilacs are ready to burst into bloom. Winter is a barren season in Minnesota, and spring comes begrudgingly. When it finally arrives, seemingly overnight, from dim gray to shades of green, barren places are filled with color and softness. The grass is suddenly long and in need of mowing. Shoots push through the earth without notice until they are high or in flower. Owl babies peek from the tops of dead trees, goslings toddle across the road, mallard couples waddle across the lawn. After the long winter, it’s nice to wander and gather wild and green things to eat. Use caution as you collect nettle, as even a light brush against your skin can be painful. If you wear gloves whenever you handle it you needn’t worry. And a brief boil neutralizes the stinging formic acid. If you’ve never tried it, grab a guidebook and search it out. Then simmer a pot of this simple soup, softened by cubes of potato and celery and leek.
Stinging Nettle Soup
Yield: about four servings
4 c. loosely packed stinging nettles
Olive oil for the pan
2 small leeks, diced and rinsed thoroughly
2 ribs celery, diced
1 clove garlic, minced finely
4 c. chicken stock (recipe here)
1 small waxy potato, such as Yukon Gold, peeled and diced into very small cubes
salt and pepper
- Bring a large covered pot of water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with ice water and place a colander in your sink.
- Wearing gloves, pick the leaves and tender stems from bunches of stinging nettle. Discard the thicker stems.
- Boil the nettle leaves for one minute.
- Drain them in the colander and place them in the ice water.
- Over medium heat, warm the same pot that you used to boil the nettles. When it is hot, drizzle in a few turns of olive oil around the pan.
- When the oil is hot, add the leeks and celery and a bit of salt and pepper. Saute until tender and taking on just a touch of color, about five minutes.
- Add the garlic and stir for one minute.
- Add the chicken stock and the potatoes. Raise the heat and bring the soup to a boil. Then lower the heat and simmer the soup until the potatoes are quite tender, about ten minutes.
- Squeeze out the moisture from the nettles and give them a rough chop. Add them to the soup. Simmer for a few more minutes.
- Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning if necessary.