Many of us taking our daily walks are noticing the very strong signs of Spring with new growth everywhere. Two classic woodland and hedgerow ingredients are at their best for picking in early Spring, nettles and wild garlic, both are packed with goodness and combined, they make a very tasty and healthy lunch. It can be incredibly satisfying to forage and make something delicious, with no need for a shopping trip. Add a few extra vegetables, whatever you have available at home.
Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) has been a staple in herbal medicine since ancient times. Most concentrated in the growing tips, the plant contains a high content of nutrients including vitamin A, vitamin C (ten times more than an apple), and vitamin K along with easily absorbed calcium and iron. The plant has been associated with relieving muscle and joint pain, strengthening bones, boosting heart health, kidney, urinary, and prostate health and strengthening immune function.
The main health benefit of wild garlic (Allium ursinum) is its effectiveness in reducing blood pressure, therefore, heart disease and the risk of stroke. Although all garlic has this property, wild garlic has the greatest effect on lowering blood pressure.
Do wear gloves to pick the nettles. You just need the tips (top four leaves). With the wild garlic, just pick the leaves and leave the bulb where it grows. Wash all the leaves thoroughly in a sink full of cold water, whilst wearing rubber gloves. Roger Phillips has a good recipe in his ‘Wild Food’ book. This recipe taken from BBC Good Food https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/wild-garlic-nettle-soup and there are many others online.
- 1 tbsp rapeseed oil, plus extra for drizzling
- 25g butter
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 1 leek, finely diced
- 2 celery sticks, thinly sliced
- 1 carrot, finely diced
- 1 small potato, peeled and diced
- 1.2l good-quality vegetable stock
- 300g young nettle leaves
- 200g wild garlic leaves (keep any flowers if you have them)
- 3 tbsp milk
- Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan. Add the onion, leek, celery, carrot, potato and a good pinch of salt, and stir until everything is well coated. Cover and sweat gently for 15-20 mins, stirring every so often to make sure that the vegetables don’t catch on the bottom of the pan.
- Pour in the stock and simmer for 10 mins. Add the nettles in several batches, stirring, then add the wild garlic leaves and simmer for 2 mins.
- Remove from the heat and blend using a stick blender or tip into a blender. Return to the heat and stir through the milk, then taste for seasoning. Ladle into bowls and drizzle over a little extra oil, then top with a few wild garlic flowers, if you have them.