Long relegated to the rank of weed, nettle is back on the front of the culinary scene, because of its flavor and virtues.

Nettle is the grass of our childhood, the one that pursues us along the paths, in the fields, the undergrowth, and the gardens. The one that stings, itches, and that we would do well during walks in the open air. However, this plant rich in iron, magnesium and vitamins would be a faithful ally for health when cooking, and is a tasty seasonal recipe. Instead of pricking it, what if we rubbed it?

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Vitamin C, iron, magnesium …

According to Rachel Frély, journalist specializing in aromatherapy, nutrition and author Secrets of nettle (1), “the soup is interesting, especially for relieving physical ailments such as painful joints and rheumatism. It is also recommended in the event of bloating or heaviness in the stomach. “

If you are feeling tired or overworked, its adaptogenic nature would increase the body’s ability to deal with stress better. Not to mention all the nutritional values ​​it has. “Nettle contains six to seven times more vitamin C than oranges, twice as much iron as spinach and almost as much calcium as a serving of cheese,” explains Rachel Frély. And it is also an excellent source of magnesium, zinc and group B vitamins … “

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How to choose the right nettle?

The most common is the stinging nettle also called “common nettle” or “big nettle”. This herbaceous plant can reach up to 1.50 m in height and grows abundantly in the wild. She often hides in the forest, in the wettest corners. Its flowering takes place from June to October but it is in spring that it is advisable to harvest its leaves, the period of the year during which they are the richest in iron.

To recognize nettle, nothing could be simpler: it has a quadrangular stem covered with hairs that break as easily as glass, and strongly toothed and hairy leaves. Its bad reputation comes from their stinging properties. “The swollen part at the base of the hair is a reservoir filled with an allergenic liquid rich in particular in histamine,” explains Rachel Frély. At the slightest contact, the hairs are planted like needles in the epidermis and thus release this liquid which causes a small burn and often forms a small reddish papilla. “

- Harvest, recipe, benefits… Everything you need to know about nettle soup

Tips for harvesting nettle.

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The harvest stage is the most delicate. Not surprisingly, it is advisable to wear gloves and use pruning shears. We can also favor a rainy day for picking, the nettle being much less stinging when it is wet. Rachel Frély recommends collecting the leaves from below, grabbing them at the base at the stem level, where the stinging hairs are least present.

It is also better to opt for young shoots, the adult plant has an unpleasant bitterness and can cause kidney dysfunction in some, according to the specialist. “The color of the young shoots tends towards a lighter green and the leaves are softer, less fibrous,” she adds. If one prefers to avoid the harvest stage, one scrutinizes the displays of certain markets. It is possible to find bouquets of fresh nettles in this season.

What about the recipe?

First of all, to preserve the benefits of nettle as much as possible, it is important to cook it quickly after picking it. Then, the whole thing is childishly simple and only takes ten minutes.

To make the soup, you need 400 g of fresh nettle leaves. They are detached from the stems using rubber gloves, washed in cold water and then chopped. Rachel Frély reminds us: the stinging power of the plant disappears when it is chopped, cooked or dried. We then pour the leaves into a saucepan filled with water, and cook for 25 minutes over low heat. “Be careful not to cook for more than 30 minutes to preserve the nutrients,” emphasizes the specialist. Salt, pepper, remove from heat and mix.

If its herbaceous taste will delight lovers of chard and spinach, it is also possible to sweeten it for the more resistant. To do this, we add three potatoes to the preparation. “As for the consistency,” explains Rachel Frély, “you can add a knob of butter or a tablespoon of crème fraîche for a smoother effect, and another of tapioca to thicken.”

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For pickers whose harvest has been so successful that they have leaves left, it is also possible to cook the young nettle shoots in the same way as spinach. You can then make an omelet, a quiche or a savory cake. Nettle being even richer in proteins than soybeans, it will infuse a good dose of energy into the body in addition to delighting … Why deprive yourself of it?

(1) The secrets of nettle, by Rachel Frély, (Ed. Larousse), 192 pages, € 6.95.

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