Bring on the wild nettles.
It’s the season again when these wonderfully nutritious, wild greens pop up all over. They pack a punch with their sting, but once tamed they make the most wonderful feature in any dish or dessert, such as this Nettle and Honey Cake.
Nettles are considered one of many of nature’s gifts and the plant’s uses extend beyond the plate to medicine, fertilizers, textile production, and paper. It was an incredibly important plant during the Viking Age due to its versatility, even so that Norwegians who emigrated brought with them the plants and seeds to ensure they would not be without. There are numerous species of nettle worldwide and two are found in Norway: stornesle and smånesle.
One of the traditional uses for nettles in Norwegian cuisine is to make soup with them called “brenneslesuppe”. The soup is simple enough and sometimes features hardboiled eggs on top. Not only is this soup delicious, it was also promoted during war time as an abundant, free, and incredibly nutritious meal.
For an extra touch, I like to toss in a handful or two of peas. They add a lovely sweetness and brighten the soup even more.
This is such a simple soup to make and it’s so fresh. Nettles are available throughout the spring and summer season, so you can make this soup when you like, using younger leaves. You can use any stock you wish, but I did find that a good beef stock really enhanced the overall flavor.
Wild Nettle and Pea Soup (brenneslesuppe med erter)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 handfuls of wild nettles leaves (about 4 cups), washed
- 4 ¼ cups (1 liter) good quality stock
- 2 cups (250 g) peas (frozen or fresh)
- Salt and pepper to taste
In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened, 6-8 minutes. Toss in the nettles and cook 2-3 minutes. Add in the stock and peas. Bring to a simmer and cook, 5 minutes if using frozen peas or 10 minutes if using fresh, shelled peas. Carefully pour the soup into a blender and process until smooth or use a hand blender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and serve while warm.