I found a nice wooded area that had nettles growing everywhere, they were only about a foot and half tall and still fairly young. From what I understand this is the ideal time to pick them because the stalks and leaves are the most tender. I picked just the tops and filled a plastic grocery bag about half full, about a pound and a half of leaves and young stalks. I brought them home and rinsed them in ice cold water and then let them dry. I had seen several different things done with the nettles, from making pasta to brewing beer but thought I would keep it simple and make a nettle soup. The following recipe is a combination of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Andreas Viestad's recipes.
Half a grocery bag full of nettle leaves and stalks picked clean and rinsed
2 carrots diced
2 stalks of celery diced
1 medium onion diced
3 cloves garlic
4 cups of stock (veggie or chicken work best)
4 tbls butter
2 tbls creme fraiche or heavy cream
a pinch of grated nutmeg
3 tbls cooked rice or 3 rice cakes
Melt the butter and add the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic and saute until tender. Add the stock and bring to a boil add the nettle leaves and cook for about ten minutes on medium high heat. After all the leaves are tender add the rice and then let the mixture cool. Once cool blend in batches in a blender until smooth or use an emersion blender. Reheat the soup and stir in the creme fraiche or heavy cream. To serve this I like to break up chunks of smoked fish and drop them in the soup and top it off with some chives and creme fraiche.
The soup is a bright green color and tastes the way you would expect green to taste. Very fresh and light. The smoked fish adds a salty component that compliments the lightness of the soup wonderfully. As abundant as nettles are and as easy as this soup is I really think everyone should try it at least once. I was very surprised at how well this turned out. Even my wife who was certain I was trying to poison her enjoyed it, although she thought the extra creme fraiche was unnecessary.