Elven food porn. Yep, that’s what I’m calling it. That’s what happens when you combine fresh spring stinging nettles with organic garlic, organic raw walnuts, sheep’s milk romano and lemon juice to create a taste bud-gasm. One that is good for you to boot! It is a definite win and so easy.
Stinging Nettle (urtica diotica) grows wild in meadows and fields everywhere. She is a shining jewel for herbalists and foragers alike. She is best harvested before she flowers so get out there soon!
Urtica has very high levels of minerals, especially, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, silica, iodine, silicon, sodium, and sulfur. Is also a good source of vitamin C, beta-carotene, and B complex vitamins and high levels of easily absorbable amino acids. I have read varying sources stating the protein content ranges between 10 and 25 percent! That’s heavy for a leafy green!
But what about the sting, you ask? Yes, there is that. There is no doubt that when you brush against her, it hurts! With this chemical cocktail it’s no wonder: acetylcholine, histamine, 5-HT (serotonin), moroidin, leukotrienes, and formic acid. The remedy? Approach her with respect and mindfulness.
No. Sudden. Movements!
Seriously, when I harvest her leaves, if I mindfully pick one at a time, slowly, I do not get stung. If you do get stung, look around you…you should be able to find some plantain or dock within a few feet, pick a leaf, chew it up and spit it out onto the sting, it will relieve the pain right away. It’s called a spit poultice and it is stellar field first aid.
But we are making pesto, so we need more than just a few leaves. Wear gloves and a long sleeved shirt, and simply snip the top 3rd of the plant into a big bowl. No touching needed. When you get home, you will want to blanch the leaves for 3 minutes in boiling water. Then plunge into cold/ice water. This will neutralize the chemicals that cause the sting. Take it from me; eating a raw nettle leaf…may cause gagging and coughing. Been there, while I was being interviewed for the local newspaper about foraging. Embarrassing.
Once your nettles are blanched, strained and cooled, pop them into the food processor and grind with the rest of your ingredients! Simple. Use your nettle pesto the same as you would basil pesto!
Stinging Nettle Pesto
Makes 4– 8oz jars
- 8 cups of nettles
- 1 cup pecorino romano or parmesan if you prefer
- 1 cup walnuts (any nut will do, really)
- 5 garlic cloves, peeled
- Juice of 1 lemon and zest
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup olive oil (or just enough to pull it all together)
This is the basic recipe. I added a few random leaves from the garden. Five sprigs of lemon balm and 3 small bunches of wood sorrel for a lemony touch and a handful of mizuna lettuce to add a peppery zing. These extras are not necessary if you don’t have them.
♥ Enjoy! Maria