This is a story about Nettles. Once upon a time, not too long ago, if somebody mentioned nettles to me I automatically thought Wicked Stepmother, Fairy Tales, The Brothers Grimm. Nettles were something that wicked Queens made you eat, or sleep on, or wear, or gather or something like that. After all Nettles have a first name too, and it's STINGING! So yeah, if somebody (Paula Wolfert) is telling me they're good to eat, that's a leap of faith. Why not just boil up a porcupine and be done with it?
My main experience with nettle involved the old fairy tale The Wild Swans. I had a comic book about it as a kid. It seems these guys (Princes of course) got bewitched and turned into birds, and so this Princess who was either their sister or their girlfriend or whatever, had to go gather nettles in the field and spin them into cloth in order to make clothes for these swans and then put the clothes on the swans before they flew away in order to turn them back into her brothers, or her dates or whatever.
But I digress. Stinging Nettles aren't just for avian clothing anymore, if they ever were. People all over the world have been eating nettles for eons. I'm just late to the game, but better late than never. Nettles are one of the signs of Spring in the Farmers Market. This inexpensive weed is rich in vitamins and flavorful. In fact nettles are similar to spinach or sorrel in taste and the only difference is that certain precautions have to be followed when preparing them. They don't call them stinging for nothing.
But at $2.00 a bag I was sold. After all where else could I get such an inexpensive, easy, seasonal soup? If you're lucky enough to have nettles at your local market or in your garden don't be afraid to try them, and if you don't, spinach or watercress will do just as well.
There it is. The sting but not the taste taken out, guaranteed to turn any old goose into a Prince. —Kathy Gori