A Stupendously Fresh Soup

Jonathan Townsend

Posted on September 15 2015

A Stupendously Fresh Soup

Life on the trail in the 18th century was often a difficult and dangerous endeavor. It’s easy to romanticize from our overstuffed chairs what wilderness living may have been like — being one with nature, living in a symbiotic relationship with the land. In reality, however, even for the expert leather-skinned woodsman, it was more likely an unrelenting struggle for one’s own survival.

Maintaining the most basic food supply was of utmost importance to the trekker, as the trail was an intolerant host. Traveling, especially over long distances, required planning ahead. The only meal one could count on was the meal he packed in. You could only hope for additional opportunities while nature wasn’t looking.

But that’s not to say that on occasion nature eases her grip, and the supply to be found is of the delicious sort — even by modern “civilized” standards. One such instance can be found in the annals of the great 18th century explorer, Captain James Cook.

It was this passage that prompted Jon to try a springtime soup made from a few of the same essentials often carried by trekkers, and supplemented with what nature offered up.

Jon mentions a number of ingredients that he had prepared earlier.  For these recipes check the videos out below:

Soup with Wild Greens


  • 1 quart of water
  • 2/3 cup of barley
  • 1 handfull stinging nettles chopped
  • 1 handful wild garlic green stems chopped
  • 3-4 wild garlic bulbs sliced
  • 3-4 leaves of garlic mustard
  • 1 handful dandelion greens
  • 3 medium size pieces of portable soup (about 1-1/2 inch size pieces)
  • 2 large pinches of Mushroom ketchup powder
  • 1 pinch Salt, 1 pinch Pepper, and 1 pinch Cayenne all from Jon’s Pocket Spice Box


Pour the water and barley in a small sized pot and set it over your campfire.


After about an hour, add in the wild greens.


Finally stir in the portable soup.  The pot will need to be removed from heat immediately after the portable soup is dissolved, so make sure to pay extra attention to this stage.


Once it has cooled a bit, season the soup to your liking.  Jon adds powder he made from leftovers of a mushroom ketchup (which is flavorful enough to fully substitute portable soup for a vegetarian version).


Next add salt, pepper, and cayenne.


For some extra thickness enjoy this soup with Ship’s Biscuits.


This soup encapsulates a timeless tradition as beloved in the 18th century as it is today.  Jon hits the nail on the head when he says that “there is nothing like cooking your meal out over an open fire like this with greens that you just gathered”.

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