The only thing more rewarding than eating out of your own garden is foraging in the forest, and here on the West Coast as well as in many parts of the world, nettles grow abundantly in the wild and are a valuable food source for many. Look for spots in the woods that are damper and shadier; alder, maple and cleavers are good indicator plants, where you find them you often find nettle. Nettles are very easy to grow so try growing them in your garden too!
Stinging nettle is one of the worlds most nutrient dense foods, it helps to cleanse and support the body, and acts as an anti-histamine. You couldn’t ask for a better spring tonic! Nettles contain up to 25% protein, are high in fibre, vitamins A, B6, & K, potassium, iron, magnesium, silicon, manganese, phosphorus, and riboflavin.
- 2 cups fresh Urtica dioica leaves, packed
- 1/4 cup fresh herbs (basil, arugula, parsley etc)
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup nuts (pine nuts, almonds, walnuts etc)
- 3 medium sized garlic cloves
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Step 1: Harvesting the nettles
As the name suggests, stinging nettles do sting, so be sure to wear gloves! As the nettles come up in the Spring harvest them by snipping the new shoots near the ground when they are a few inches tall. They will re-grow quite fast. As the weather begins to warm and the nettles grow to a foot high or more you can still harvest the top leaves for fresh eating. Sadly, once they begin to set flower nettle season is drawing to a close. The older plants have high levels of oxalic acid, concentrations of which can be taxing to your kidneys.
Step 2: Blending the bounty
Once blended, the nettles loose their sting. Place your nettle shoots, garlic cloves, and oil in a food processor and blend until smooth, Add the nuts and pulse until mixed. Stir in parmesan and salt and pepper. If your pesto is too thick add more oil, if it is too thin you can add more nettle or herbs to thicken it.
Step 3: Eat and feel merry and well!
Nettle and herb pesto can be enjoyed as a dip, a sauce on pasta and pizza, tossed on veggies, or spread on crackers. It freezes well for a treat later in the year when the nettle season has passed.