Skull Gang Foraging Club: Nettles For Your Nuts.
Every week the Skull Gang Foraging Club go on a loose adventure in the pursuit of home made culinary satisfaction. This week they brave the most annoying plant in the outside world, the stinging nettle.
Nettles don’t sting so much as shock. It’s the surprise that gets you, rather than the pain. But the pain is still there, lingering and warm, uncomfortable more than unbearable. They manage to get everywhere. Your shins, the inside of your wrist, even under your fucking armpits. They’re relentless.
We had bought rubber gloves to pick them. Those thin powdery ones worn by coroners and tattoo artists. They broke pretty much immediately. The warmth of the sting was almost welcome. It was the first shitty day in two weeks of sun. That British kind of shitty that catches you unprepared, just as you let your guard down. It was downright miserable. Soup sounded like a good idea, nettle soup ideal.
The marsh was quiet, fuzzy and indistinct. The clouds hung low, and any creeps out walking looked like murderers. The path we were following had turned away from the empty green football pitches, towards the river. Murder was an actual possibility here. The water flowed fast, too fast for the birds struggling against it. Eventually they all gave up. Those that didn’t fly away sheltered, hunched against the cold, in small bays. It didn’t feel like spring, but it was. The path was overgrown, disappearing amongst weeds that had been shoots only a week earlier. Most of these were nettles, green and hairy and tasting of spinach and earth.
When picking nettles you only really want the new, light green tips. About the first four leaves, and no more. It takes a while, but it’s worth it. Otherwise you may as well make grass soup. It took three of us half an hour to pick enough for a decent pot. Someone managed to sting their tongue.
Nettle soup is basically potato soup with green shit in it. Here’s how you make it.
Collect 500 grams of fresh nettle tips.
Rinse well to remove any dirt or bugs. Leave to drain.
In a large pot, brown garlic and chopped leek in butter.
Add a cup of white wine and stir.
Add two roughly chopped potatoes.
Top up with 1-2 litres of chicken stock, some allspice, and reduce to a simmer.
You want the potato to be nice and soft before you add the nettles. If they are cooked for too long they will lose their colour. Throw them in 5 minutes before the end, season, and blitz with a hand blender.
Serve with chopped chives and a chunk of good bread.
As well as making a tasty soup nettles are ace for your health. They’re rich in vitamin A and C, as well as potassium, iron and calcium. They have been proven to help with arthritis, gout and dandruff. And they are effective in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia, or swollen prostate. Yep, they are good for your man-bits and your hair. Just don’t apply them directly.