Cheap & Nourishing – That Bowl Of Nettle Soup

“If you touch a nettle gently it will sting you for your pain; grasp it like a lad of mettle, an’ as soft as silk remains”.

A 16th century recorded rhyme, later on quoted in the Sean O’Casey play, entitled “Juno and the Paycock”.

It had possibly emerged from some dark outbuilding or other shelter where it had waited out, dry and secure, the not so demanding conditions of our 2019 winter. I am referring to my encounter on Friday last with a handsome, yet lonesome Peacock Butterfly, latter which, of all things, instantly reminded me of nettle soup.

Peacock Butterfly

The Peacock Butterfly, one of the first of its species to be viewed in any springtime, derives its name from the pair of peacock-like eyes, latter so clearly displayed on its hind-wings, which make up just part of this adult butterfly’s defence mechanism.

Without touching, check if you can, its underwings, same is in complete contrast; its dull and mysteriously under markings designed to serve as camouflage, when found resting or hibernating, with wings folded close together.

Having found its smaller in size male mate; this female starts to lay its eggs, usually in May, choosing the tips of stinging nettles to deposit her large clusters of 300-400 eggs on the underside of the new seasons growing foliage. These beautiful adults, their role and contribution to new continuing life totally fulfilled, will die a short time afterwards.

Nettle Soup.

It was my grandmother who first introduced me to the delicious taste of cooked nettles and nettle water; latter the blackish water left over after nettles have been cooked and served up as an alternative fresh vegetable to others of the brassica family, e.g. Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, Kale etc..

Not ever found in bunches on today’s Supermarket shelves, Eliza Jane Brennan my grandmother was insistent in the 1960’s that growing children required that extra iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and sodium; all so richly packaged in that humble nettle product, which in modern times we have quickly labeled as a noxious weed, its growth never to be encouraged.

Nettles also contain vitamins A, B, C and K, together with all of the essential amino acids, with many of its nutrients, for those who consume same, acting as antioxidants inside our bodies.

Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica – from the Latin word uro meaning “to burn”) have been a staple in herbal medicine since ancient times. They were used by ancient Egyptians to treat arthritis and lower back pain, and by Roman soldiers to stay warm. If you have ever been stung by nettles you will quickly learn and fully understand the benifits gained by the Roman soldiers, stationed in colder climates.

Not surprising therefore that a Peacock Butterfly, should remind me of delicious nettle soup.

To make nettle soup the following ingredients are required: –
150g (5.3oz) of fresh young nettle tops.
A 35g (1.2 oz) knob of butter.
2 tbsp rice.
1 cube of chicken stock.
1 large chopped onion.
2 finely chopped leeks.
2 Sticks of celery finely chopped.
Salt and black pepper to taste.

Suitably atired with isolating gloves, pick your stinging nettles. After washing them thoroughly, (still gloved), melt your butter in a suitably sized saucepan over a medium-low heat. Next add the chopped onion, leeks and celery sticks before covering and sweating gently for about 9 or 10 minutes. (Do stir a few times to avoid contents browning). Next add the chicken stock followed by the rice, allowing all ingredients to simmer before further cooking for about 10 minutes.

Finally, add your washed nettles, stirring them in amongst the other ingredients. Simmer for between 3 to 5 minutes, ensuring the rice and the nettles are deemed tender, before adding seasoning using adequate salt and pepper to your preferred taste. Use your Stick Blender or other such chosen device, to combine together all ingredients into a smooth soup-like consistency.

Delicious, nutritious and “guaranteed to put hair on your chest”, as my grandmother often reliably informed me.


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