Nettles emerge each year in the Month of Blossoming, Pexsiseng, or March. They continue to grow through season. When gathering, make sure the area has not been sprayed and is away from roads or other harmful influences. Be sure to ask permission from the nettles and make your offering in gratitude if permission is given. Nettles will sting you with their tiny hollow hairs that are filled with formic acid. This may be viewed as part of their medicine. You can prepare with long sleeves, gloves, and tools that help your skin keep distance. I prefer kitchen scissors and a basket. They are most tender when young but you can harvest leaves or new branches throughout the season. it is best to only harvest the top half or third of the plant, so lower branches can continue to grow. Once picked, the hairs will wilt and over time they lose their stinging power. They are delicious boiled and steeped as tea or chopped and used in place of spinach in any cooked recipe. Blended with hazelnuts and favorite herbs they make a wonderful pesto. These are all good, yet my favorite first recipe every year in Pexsiseng is nettle soup.
¼ cup olive oil or butter
Freshly rinsed and harvested nettle shoots (about a colander full)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 stalks celery or tender shoots of Lovage, chopped
4 medium size carrots, cut to coins
A few potatoes quartered or a cup or two of cooked rice
1-2 quarts of favorite broth
Salt and Pepper to taste
Other root vegetables or peas
Favorite herbs, Bay leaf
Onion or chives
Use a non-reactive baked enamel or stainless steel cooking pot and wooden spoon. Sautee’ garlic in oil or butter until fragrant. Add celery, lovage, nettles and optional herbs. Stir until wilted. Add carrots and potatoes and broth or water until all is covered. Raise temperature and bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes to a half hour. Remove from heat. If you prefer a chunky soup, be sure to prepare all of the veggies and nettles for bite size before putting in the pot. I prefer this soup smooth. Once cooled enough, I blend the soup in batches and return to the pot. This is also when I add cream or plain yogurt and salt and pepper to taste. Garnish each bowl with sour cream, fresh herbs, wild violets, or and any other spring delicacy. Enjoy!