Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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nettles of the stinging kind, notably Urtica dioica which has a range from W. Europe to the Himalayas, are gathered wild and used as a green vegetable in many parts of the world. Only the young shoots and tops of the plants are eaten, and they have to be cooked in order to destroy the formic acid which gives them their sting. Nettle soup is the only European dish in which they play a leading role; but they are also used in the production of nettle and ginger beer, and are an ingredient of the herb puddings made in the north of England (see dock pudding). The Scottish version of nettle soup is Nettle kail. The term kail means not only the vegetable kale but also, in a more general way, greens or a soup made from them. This Nettle kail was in some regions a traditional dish for Shrove Tuesday, or to celebrate the arrival of spring. It would incorporate a little barley meal or fine oatmeal and a boiling fowl or cockerel stuffed with oatmeal, onion, and wild garlic.