Nettle Soup

Here’s the classic way to eat nettles, if you didn’t mention it, no-one would realise they were eating ‘stingers’! See also Nettle Pie

Serves 4

1 average size colander of young nettle tops (harvested well away from busy roads and traffic pollution)

4 medium size potatoes

2 large onions

1 further onion

1-2 sticks celery including green leafy tops

1-2 carrots

Knob of butter or couple of tablespoons oil for frying

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Peel and slice the 2 large onions. Fry gently until soft and golden.

Peel the other onion and the carrots. Cut the onion in half and the carrots into 4 length-wise.

Peel the potatoes and boil with the prepared onion and carrots and the celery, until the potatoes are tender.

Put on your rubber gloves and wash the nettle tops in cold water. Drain the cooking water from the potatoes into a pan and add the washed nettles. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain, and retain the cooking liquid.

Mash the potatoes, discarding the carrot, onion and celery.

Combine the fried onions with the potatoes and nettles. Add some of the cooking liquid and blend in a liquidiser or food processor. Add more cooking liquid as needed.

Transfer to a pan and heat through – don’t boil as this will impair the flavour. Check for seasoning: you may need a little salt and pepper. Serve with crusty bread: croutons and fried bacon pieces scattered over the top also work well.

Love Your Nettles . . . and Eat Them

If you have a good crop of nettles springing up in the garden, why not eat them?

Tasty, nutritious and free, what’s not to like? The tender tips are vitamin and mineral rich and have been a traditional part of our spring diet for centuries. Once heated to remove the sting, they are thought to be purifying and cleansing.

Use in any cooked recipe where you might use spinach: they make fantastic soups, puddings and pies or stir them through pasta or into risotto.

You can also eat dead nettle lamium album, including garden varieties, in the same way as the stinging variety.

Wear rubber gloves to pick and handle nettles until cooked. Harvest only the tender young tops


The official season for the tender tops is March to May when the plants run up to seed and the leaves become tough and too acidic and indigestible to eat. However, you can keep a patch of dedicated eating nettles if you become hooked: just keep cutting it down and eat only the fresh new growth.

Nettles are also great for attracting wildlife and a helpful plant to add to the compost heap.