Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Foraging 101

These, my friends, are nettles.  Stinging nettles.  Urtica dioica, to be exact.  And tonight, I am having my first meal with them.  I have foraged.

My sister sent me two cookbooks about foraging.  One, entitled Hunt, Gather, Cook, by Hank Shaw, is amazing and hilarious.  This guy thinks a bit like me.  He looks at something and his first thought is, "Can I eat that?"  The only problem with the book is that it isn't really a field guide.  So I took a few of the greens he mentioned in the book and looked them up on the internet, just last night.  One was nettles.  And, lo and behold, while I was riding today I noticed something that looked a lot like the pictures I saw.  To be fair, I started my afternoon at the stables by looking around at the ground and thinking, "OK, dandelions I know, but are those lambs quarters?  Is that garlic mustard or geranium?"  But with the nettles, once I got over to them and took a look, I was quite sure of myself.

You might find this strange, but I keep gardening gloves in the trunk of my car.  I started that because sometimes when I hike I see trash and want to get rid of it, so I have the gloves with me and a plastic bag to gather trash.  Who could have foreseen that I would want to pick stinging nettles?

Once we got home, I blanched the nettles in boiling salt water and then shocked them in ice water.  This gets rid of the formic acid which makes them sting.  I made a potato-nettle soup:

1 cup nettle leaves, blanched
1 clove garlic
1 shallot
2 cups chicken stock
3 small potatoes, cubed
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. parsley

The onion, garlic and nettles were pureed with 1/2 c. of the stock and then added to the rest of the ingredients in a pot.  This was simmered for about 30 minutes until the potato cubes were tender and then the immersion blender did its thing.  We now have a thick green fragrant soup and I almost cannot wait until dinnertime!


  1. It was terrific! And we are not dead. I'd call it a success. 10-y-old ate two bowls! The other wouldn't touch it, no surprises there. I might try to harvest more and make ravioli with them someday.

  2. Have you thought of canning this? I would love to learn about a recipe for safely preserving this delicious soup to enjoy at a later date.

  3. I'm not so certain any more about canning purees, it seems that the governing body which determines appropriate canning times is not certain about things like pureed starchy vegetables (pumpkin and squash being notable examples of this uncertainty). What I might do is cook it up to the point when one is about to puree the potato chunks and then can it. Freezing might be a better option?


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