Welcoming springtime also means the onset of weed season. While many reach for their choice of mass plant destruction (with herbicides being of greatest concern), there are gentler and more sustainable ways to manage the green overgrowth in our yards and public spaces.
Many of our wild plants that find their way into our gardens and every crack and crevice in the concrete are full of nutritional and even medicinal benefits. For example, the ever resilient dandelion is an excellent blood cleanser and liver detoxifier while also being a fantastic source of vitamin K, A, potassium, calcium, iron and rich with antioxidants.
One never forgets stinging nettle once they encounter it as it brushes against bare skin. This prickly annual green has 2-3 times more nutritional value than either spinach or kale, which are considered some of our top green superfoods. It can be made into many foods most especially soups and pestos.
My yard has a small patch of it, everywhere else there is mallow and sow thistle… maybe a few dandelions. As I wander our country neighborhood, I notice that other folks had a bit more luck as I would call it. My introverted self hesitates to knock on someone’s door to ask if I can harvest their weeds… sure to be met with an awkward silence and then the stuttering of explaining myself. So alternately, I posted on our local social media (NextDoor… have you heard of it? Pretty handy for us shy introverts who want the inside scoop for neighborhood going-on’s.) My intriguing post started off with “Got weeds..?” and then inquired more about nettle and how to identify it. Quickly I received responses such as “why in the world I would want such a nasty plant” and “please!!! take as much as you want!!” Therefore, an opening to introduce myself and my work appeared to a whole new audience… Hint to herbalists and foragers: don’t be afraid to hit up your neighbors for unsuspecting herbs and wild edibles! Because chances are, you’ll definitely make some new friends. You get local free food/medicine, they get their yards weeded. Its a win-win.
Medicinal Uses of Nettle:
Nettle leaf is a potent revitalizing and nourishing diuretic herb, helpful in situations affecting the urinary tract and adrenals. It assists in reducing excess mucus such as with hay fever or seasonal allergies. When treating allergies with nettle, it is best to start treating with fresh nettle tincture or freeze-dried capsules a month or so before the onset of allergy season. Topically, the fresh plant can be used intentionally to sting the skin surrounding an arthritic or painful joint or area in need of healing.
I tried many different nettle soup recipes this season and came up with my own version that I was rather happy with. If you try it, I’d love to hear your feedback!
Wild Nettle Soup Recipe (vegan)
Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 30 min
3 tablespoons oil (I prefer avocado or coconut oil for their health benefits)
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves of garlic (or more if you’re a garlic aficionado like myself!)
1 quart vegetable stock
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Cayenne to taste
Salt to taste
1 large red potato, diced
1 pound nettles, blanched
1/2 cup cashews, soaked for 1-2 hours, but not necessary
1. Cook onions in oil until soft and translucent in a large soup pot. Add garlic, thyme and cayenne, cook briefly another minute or so.
2. Add the stock, salt, potatoes and nettles. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 15-20 minutes until nettles and potatoes are tender.
3. Adjust spices and salt to taste.
4. Add cashews.
5. Transfer to a high speed blender and blend, in batches if necessary until smooth. If you want a super silky soup, you can strain through a fine mesh strainer.
6. Transfer back to soup pot and warm until ready to serve.