Nettle Soup – An Earth Day Recipe (better late than never)

25 April 2010 · 4 comments

in Early Years Outdoors, Gardening, Health & Wellbeing, Nature Play & Learning, Technologies

There’s been quite a bit of discussion on the blogs I visit about meaningful action we can do with children on Earth Day. My gut reaction was “just take ‘em outside”. But that doesn’t make the day any different.

I sat back and had a think. What would make Earth Day memorable? What would make children remember this day from 5000 plus they have in their childhood? The answer came from my son. The one activity he has never forgotten was making nettle soup as a 4 yr old in my nursery.

Now is the time of year for making nettle soup. Young fresh leaves need to be harvested when the shoots are no more than a few inches high. Within a month or so, the leaves will become much coarser, unpleasantly bitter and possible have a laxative effect. This is indeed a spring time soup.

What you need:

  • Children – any age
  • Gloves for everyone – ones with no holes in. Gardening gloves work well
  • A big handful of nettles leaves (urtica dioica)
  • Butter or margarine – a blob
  • Onion – one per 4 servings, chopped
  • Small potato – one per 4 servings, chopped
  • Vegetable stock – about a pint or more if you like thin soup
  • Salt or other seasoning to taste

At this time of year, you may have to search in between other plants such as ground elder to find the young nettles

What to do:

  1. Put on the gloves and pick some nettle leaves. You need a big handful. Do not gather from roadsides or places where pollution or chemicals may affect the nettles.
  2. Remove the stems and wash well.
  3. Put the butter in a pan and add the wet washed nettles. Put on the lid. It’s a little like preparing spinach.
  4. Add the chopped onion and cook for about 5 minutes on a medium-low heat.
  5. Add the potato and the vegetable stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 20 minutes
  6. Add the seasoning and blend thoroughly. The purists may wish to sieve the soup too.
  7. Gently reheat and serve with homemade crusty bread.

The novelty of picking stinging nettles and turning them into food is an act of fascination and intrigue to children.  It requires a certain amount of bravery to pick the nettles and eat them too, so the satisfaction levels are high!

MJ and I will make nettle soup this week…in memory of Earth Day and Youth.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

jenny April 26, 2010 at 04:14

I love this idea – taking something that is growing naturally and using it to cook with. I don’t think we have nettles here though. For any Australians reading, we have been making bottle brush cordial – the kids collect bottle brush on our walks, and then you leave them in a glass of water overnight, remove the bottle brush and voila! Bush tucker 🙂

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Debi April 26, 2010 at 17:07

I love this idea but don’t think my 5 yo would be willing to experiment. I’ll have to see how he responds to eating the (unfamiliar) veggies we just planted in the garden! 🙂

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CreativeSTAR April 27, 2010 at 05:43

Yes, children are quite funny about food. I thought my son and the fussy eaters in the school would never let the soup pass their lips. But I think the novelty of picking nettles that sting and then being able to eat them safely…I think curiosity got the better of them.

I’m pleased you don’t have any nettles, Jenny…after all there’s so many other invasive European species on your continent…I suppose you’ve enough other plants and animals that can prick, sting and give a nasty bites!

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Sam May 2, 2013 at 19:42

Hi! I am preparing to cook this soup on our firebowl tomorrow with our youngest class at school. Also making small bread rolls to eat at the same time. Will let you know how we get on!

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