Foraging for food in the wild is as primal as it comes and it seems to be all the rage in the world’s trendiest restaurants. In today’s recipe I am using stinging nettle, a very common edible wild green, which can be used in soups and salads.
A little bit about foraging
Foraging for and cooking with wild edibles has lots of nutritional and environmental benefits and provides a way of connecting with the land. Depending on the area, some of the more common wild edibles include nettle, dandelion, sorrel, marigold flowers, violets, horseradish, blackberry, crab apple, fennel, wild garlic, chestnuts, finger lime, lemon myrtle, figs, elderflower, kakadu plum, ironbark, yams and rosehips.
It is crucial that you learn to identify the edible plants, berries, fruit and mushrooms before you go foraging in your local park or in the bush. Many plants, and especially mushrooms, can look alike so it’s important that you start out by foraging with an experienced guide and that you check the mushrooms with the local rangers before taking them home. Be aware of safety as some plants can be poisonous or can cause an allergic reaction.
Remember to treat wild plants with respect as they may be rare or needed to feed the local wildlife. There are many fantastic guide books and online resources and you can search for a local foraging group on websites like Meetup.com, or look for an organized wild foraging tours. Alternatively, you can often find wild edibles at your local farmers markets and specialty grocers.
Cook’s notes: Stinging nettle contains vitamin C and substantial levels of iron. Pick young, fresh leaves and when matured, pick the leaves from the top and don’t forget to wear some gloves to prevent stinging. At first sign of flowering, stop collecting as the plant will now start producing cystoliths, which can be absorbed by the body and interfere with kidney function. Fresh nettle can be used in tea, wilted with butter and pepper, added to stews, soups and stuffing.
- 1 tablespoon of ghee or coconut oil
- 1 brown onion, diced
- 1 cup diced white or sweet potato
- ⅓ medium head of cauliflower, broken up
- ½ medium head of broccoli, broken up
- 3 garlic cloves, diced
- 1 bay leaf
- zest of 1 medium lemon
- 3½ cups vegetable stock
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ⅔ teaspoon black pepper
- 1½ teaspoon sea salt
- 4 cups of stinging nettles (a bunch of 7-8 large stems with leaves)
- juice of 1 lemon
- 4-5 thyme sprigs, leaves only
- 3-4 bacon rashers, diced
- ½ cup cream or coconut cream (regular cream can also be used)
- some edible flowers and lemon zest for garnish
- Heat ghee or coconut oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, sweet potato potato, cauliflower and broccoli and sauté on medium heat for 6-7 minutes, until lightly softened. Add the garlic, bay leaf, lemon zest, vegetable stock, mustard, salt and pepper and bring to boil. Reduce heat and cook for 10 minutes until all vegetables are soft.
- In the meantime, boil some water and pour it over the stinging nettles. This will take most of the sting off. Using scissors, cut off the leaves, rinse and set aside. After 10 minutes of cooking, add the nettle leaves to the soup and cook for 1-2 minutes, until wilted. Add lemon juice and stir.
- Puree in batches for a good minute or two, until smooth. Transfer back to the saucepan and add the coconut cream and fresh thyme. Stir over low heat for a minute and taste for salt and lemon.
- Lastly, pan fry the bacon and serve with the soup.
Have you ever cooked with wild edibles like stinging nettle? Give it a go and let me know what you think.