Foraging in SW Wisconsin: Ramps, Nettles & Watercress Soup

Traveling to SW Wisconsin over the weekend, we had high hopes to find morel mushrooms.  I think we were to early… However, we did find wild ramps and stinging nettles growing on hillsides in the Kickapoo Valley Reserve!  Using makeshift tools to carefully dig the ramps out of the soil without breaking off the bulb, we harvested a lot!  By carefully (wearing gloves), we harvested stinging nettles, which is an edible green once the leaves are steamed. In a beautiful stream we found watercress floating on top of the water.  It was an amazing harvest! I’m including the recipe of the soup my husband made with this fresh food!

ramps holly

Ramps, Nettle & Watercress Soup

(can substitute kale or spinach for nettle & watercress)

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons of butter

4 cups of coarsely chopped ramps (use tender portions and no roots)

4 medium-large potatoes – chopped, quartered

8 cups packed nettles and watercress (leaves and tender shoots)

1 cup milk (1% or 2%)

1/2 cup sour cream

1-4 cups of water (to preferred thickness or thinness)

salt (to taste)

freshly ground pepper (to taste)

1/2 cup finely chopped watercress

1/2 cup finely chopped ramps

Directions: 

Three separate steps that are best done simultaneously

Heat butter in soup pot over medium-low flame. Add coarsely chopped ramps, cover and cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until tender, not to exceed a golden brown color. Remove ramps and set aside.

Boil 3 cups water. Add quartered potatoes, cover pot and cook at a high simmer until potatoes are very tender, about 15 minutes.

Steam the nettles in a steam basket over medium heat for about 5 minutes then add watercress.  The nettles should look fully wilted and tender prior to adding watercress.  Cook together over medium for another 5 minutes.

Mix potatoes, ramps, and greens (nettles and watercress) and place in a blender or food processor.  You can place them in a pot and use an immersion blender instead.  Add sour cream and milk.  Blend them until smooth.  This can be done in two batches to accommodate space in the blender if necessary.

Add the mixture to the pot and stir in water until the mixture reaches the desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Heat soup to a temperature that nearly reaches a boil (but does not boil).  Decrease heat and simmer over low for five minutes.  Add finely chopped 1/2 cup ramps and 1/2 cup watercress.

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