In praise of Urtica dioica

Urtica dioica

Image: Wikimedia Commons

In the bad old days before Mr Sainsbury and Mr Tesco worked their air­miles magic on the planet, this time of year was known as the “hungry gap” — the time between using up last year’s har­vest and start­ing to eat this year’s crops. Desperate times call for des­per­ate meas­ures, and over din­ner this even­ing we dis­cussed who was the first per­son to get stuck into a meal con­tain­ing a toxic cock­tail includ­ing acet­ylcholine, histam­ine, moroidin, leuk­o­trienes, and pos­sibly formic acid (ref). A pretty hungry one, I’d bet.

Fortunately, care­ful pick­ing (!) and a little cook­ing renders this toxic feast quite pal­at­able. For the gast­ro­nome who remains uncon­vinced, I would recom­mend Mr Fearnley-Wittingstall’s treat­ment: nettle soup

Note to chef — maybe a little more gar­lic next time.


AJ Cann. ORCID 0000-0002-9014-3720

Alan Cann is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Leicester and formerly Internet Consulting Editor for AoB.

4 Responses

  1. Mary says:

    We’re spend­ing our week muddy and grubby with the chil­dren, and after com­ing in scratch­ing from the nettle encoun­ters I won­der how well nettle soup would go over? With Mr. Tesco at the end of the road I sus­pect that exper­i­ment won’t be hap­pen­ing at our house… at least until we’re no longer cook­ing for children :-)

  2. AJ Cann says:

    Pull the PopEye trick and tell them that nettle soup will give them superpowers? 😉

  3. Paul Howard says:

    About ten years ago i met an herb­al­ist lec­turer at the Gaia Herb Conference (I don’t remem­ber his name, but he lived on an island near Seattle) who said the U. dioica sting con­tains a neur­o­trans­mit­ter, and that the sting is good for our brains, though eat­ing it des­troys the neur­o­trans­mit­ter. I think he said it was the acetylcholine.

  4. Rhizowen says:

    A life without nettle soup would be infin­itely less enjoy­able. we parc­tic­ally live on the stuff in the spring. Onions, gar­lic and nettles, a blob of miso at the end. I’ve never tasted any­thing better.