Nettle soup: A little pain and a lot of gain

The health benefits of nettles are worth the trouble of picking them!

The health benefits of nettles are worth the trouble of picking them!

Lori / Legion-Media
Although the “stings” along nettle stems may put off home cooks, the plant is easy to find and prepare, and it is full of vitamins.

Nettles are generally considered a source of annoyance for gardeners and campers, but the readily available stinging plant has long been used in soups, salads, teas and pies in Russia. There is even a Russian proverb about it: “Zhgucha krapiva roditsa, da vo schah uvaritsa,” or “nettles are born stinging, but boil down in cabbage soup.” As the saying indicates, the stinging hairs that line the plant’s stems are not a serious problem for those interested in taking advantage of its numerous health benefits. Soaking a bunch of nettles for a short period causes the “stinging” quality to subside.

Painful, but good for you

Nettles are full of healthy substances, including vitamins A, C, K, and B, iron and calcium, chlorophyll and carotenoids. Eating nettles can help the body fight off infection. They are also said to improve digestion and strengthen bones as well as improve the condition of hair and skin.

During World War II, nettles were a regular part of the daily ration for many Soviet soldiers – they had nettle soup for both breakfast and dinner. After the war, it was still a common dish for veterans and rural residents alike, as food remained scarce. Today nettle soup is a typical part of country cuisine. Nettles are easily found in the countryside, and Russian housewives often supplement that base ingredient with their own combination of vegetables and spices to make the dish more unique. Regardless of what additions are thrown in, nettle soup doesn’t require alot of time or skill to make.

Nettle soup


  • 1 large bunch of nettles
  • 1 medium bunch of sorrel
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 5 potatoes
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 bunch of dill
  • 1 bunch of green onion
  • 2 tsp salt
This soup can be served either hot or cold, which makes it suitable for chilly weather and scorching summer days. The soup works best with young nettles — in particular, the top parts of the stalks where the leaves are most tender. In order to avoid getting stung while picking nettles, wear thick gardening gloves.

How to make it:

1. Peel, cut and parcook the potatoes – approximately 12 minutes.

2. While the potatoes are being parcooked, wash the nettles carefully and put them into a separate pan with boiling water. Cook for 10 minutes. This is an important step for getting rid of the pungency.

3. Remove the nettles from the pan, cut both the leaves and the stalks. Add the nettles into the pot with the potatoes.

4. Simmer an additional 13 or so minutes until the potatoes are fully cooked. Meanwhile, slice the tomatoes and add them to the pot.

5. Hard-boil the eggs, remove the shells and cut each egg in half.

6. Cut up the sorrel, dill and onion and add to the pot. Add salt and pepper to taste. Put the soup into the bowls and add the eggs. The dish can be served with sour cream.

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