Stinging Nettle, or urtica dioica, is a superfood full of iron, vitamins A, C, D as well as calcium, potassium and manganese. It is a perennial flowering plant that has been used medicinally for ages. Stinging Nettle has heart shaped leaves with tiny hairs, which sting bare skin. Because they string, they must be handled with care. It is well worth the extra TLC!
One of my favorite springtime activities is gathering with neighbors to harvest local nettles for soups, pesto and tisane. I use rubber kitchen gloves to pick, trim and rinse the nettles.
We use organic ingredients and support our local farmers whenever possible. The extra cost is worth it for flavor, physical health benefits and impact on Mother Earth.
Stinging Nettle Pesto
8 cups of uncooked nettles or 3 cups of cooked nettles
1 cup of parmesan or pecorino cheese. (I like to use sheep milk pecorino.)
5 garlic cloves
1 cup walnuts
1/2-1 cup olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1/2-1 teaspoon sea salt (If your cheese is salty, you may not need as much salt.)
Harvest nettles wearing gloves. Note: Harvest nettles that are not flowering.
Rinse to remove insects.
Drop nettles into salted boiling water to blanch for 2-3 minutes. The blanching removes the sting. The nettles are now safe to handle with bare hands.
Remove into colander with tongs or slotted spoon and squeeze out excess water.
Place all ingredients into food processor and pulse to chop.
Then blend to desired consistency. Add more oil for a looser consistency.
Add more salt or lemon to taste.
For a gluten-free version, this pesto is wonderful with brown rice fusilli (corkscrew) pasta.
For vegetarian version, omit the cheese.