A deliciously simple and nourishing soup made from vibrant greens growing along the hedgerows (or in a wild corner of your garden).
The spring months are often a time in the calendar year that we may naturally seek the new green growth after the cold winter months of dormancy. Many "common" wild edible plants provide incredible nutrition and delicious options for soups, lighter stews and fresh green salads. Here I've taken three edible spring greens that grow abundantly here on the East Coast of Ireland to make a delicious soup that feels lovely to pick, make and eat.
This versatile soup lends itself to lots of delicious additions such as sweet potato, leeks, a dollop of white miso or a splash of cream. For a more robust soup add half a cup of red split lentils, bumping up the protein and fibre content.
A robust powerhouse of minerals, beneficial plant constituents and lots of fibre, nettle leaves are a wonderful addition to any soup. Taking good care to avoid the sting, use gloves and good pair of scissors /secateurs to snip the top 2-3 leaf-groups.
Super easy to identify, cleavers are tall, slender spindling greens with tiny hairs that help them climb up other plants (and stick to practically anything). Wonderfully nutritious and particularly known for its lymphatic supportive benefits, cleavers are delicious additions to any fresh juice, add a distinctly grassy note to hot herbal infusions, and a lovely flavour to this soup recipe.
Garlic Mustard (also known as "Jack in the Hedge)
As is evident in the name, garlic mustard has a distinctly spicy garlic flavour with a hint of radish. This light bright spring green is originally from the brassica plant family as can be identified by the delicate white flowers (which are also edible). Wether added to a mixed green leafy salad, folded into a risotto, blended with other herbs into a "pesto", or wilted into soups, the young garlic mustard leaves add a delicious depth of flavour and an array of nutritious benefits.
Here in Ireland from the months of March to early May, these wild plants can be found in many a hedgerow, field, coastal path or on uncultivated land. Here along the boarders of my parent's garden in North Wicklow, the nettle tops can be picked as early as late February and the cleavers come into full picking flow in April. Garlic Mustard has a slightly shorter picking season if you want the slightly sweeter, less bitter leaves for the soup.
As the season continues towards the end of May, many Spring greens cab become a little tougher and bitter. Using these plants in lesser amounts and paired with a sweet potato or an extra starchy veg like carrots or parsnip, helps keep this soup digestible and delicious whilst still providing those beautiful plant constituents that are so valuable for our gut health.
**It's important to remember a few things when foraging, picking and using wild plant foods:
Only ever consume wild plant foods that you can safely identify to eat
If on private ground please ask permission
Only pick what you need and will use
Instead of measuring the weights of the spring greens I go by ratios. So depending on how much soup you'd like to make (or greens you have available) consider following the ratio of 3:2:1 of nettles:cleavers:garlic mustard
1 large red onion
2 table spoons olive oil (optional to add a knob of butter or ghee)
1 large unpeeled carrot (preferably organic)
1 vegetable stock cube dissolved in 1 litre of water (or equivalent volume of homemade stock of choice)
Once you've picked your greens, leave them in a bowl to let the insects escape before giving them a gentle rinse in water. You can leave the cleavers as they are but snip off the nettle and garlic mustard leaves from their stems.
In your pan heat the olive oil/butter/ghee and add the chopped red onion. Over a low heat gently soften the onion until it becomes translucent. This will give the soup a really good flavour. Add the diced carrot and continue to cook slowly for another couple of minutes. Now pour over your stock and simmer until the carrots are tender. Turn off the heat and add the spring greens to wilt for a couple of minutes.
You can use either a stick-held blender or carefully pour into a stand-up blender and whizz until lovely and smooth. You can gently reheat this soup before serving adding a good drizzle of olive oil and garnish with some of the garlic mustard flowers.
I hope you get to try and make this soup- the perfect lunch with your favourite cheese toastie.
Wishing you joy and creativity in your kitchen and in your bowl,