Nettles, the stinging sisters as Susun Weed calls them, these magical stinging weeds turn into luscious nourishment once the heat touches them.
Nettles make me so giddy, they are such a treat and they don’t last long. When they arrive in early spring I stalk them and try to get them at their most prime, before they go to seed and get too rough and woody to enjoy. They are one of the first fresh local greens to come on the scene.
They like to grow in marshy wet places, alongside fields and swamps, near creeks and moist woodlands. When harvesting nettles, wear gloves and long pants, bring scissors to snip off the tender top shoots and if you’re lucky you can go around for a second harvest.
Many people see stinging nettles as an invasive weed, but they are actually a delicious food. All wild foods are far more nutrient dense than the domesticated plants we eat most often. Stinging nettles when lightly steamed to remove their sting, are reminiscent of spinach. They make a delicious earthy tasting tea and when infused for 4 hours or more offer an amazing source of key minerals that many of us are lacking.
We eat a lot of nettles this time of year, basically you can enjoy them in any dish you would use spinach for. So far we’ve really been digging stinging nettle omelettes, hummus, palak paneer, teas and other delightful nettle experiments.
This pesto is ah-ma-zing, it’s really a classic pesto just nettles instead of basil, which gives it a more demure taste but equally satisfying. We ate it with zoodles (zucchini noodles) and roast chicken which was divine, the next days leftovers were spread on crusty sourdough bread from the french bakery in town.
Henry David Thoreau once said ” All good things are wild and free.” I would have to agree, and nettles definitely fall into that category. Food is meant to be free and the Earth provides plentifully, we just have to know where to look.
- 3 C fresh nettle leaves
- 4 garlic cloves
- ¾ C pine nuts
- ¼ C olive oil
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 1 Tbs lemon juice
- ¾ C parmesan or asiago cheese, shredded (optional)
- Put a pot of water on and when its boiling dump the fresh nettles in for just one minute.
- Strain well and get as much water out as possible. Add nettles to blender or food processor.
- Add garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, sea salt, lemon juice and cheese if you're using it.
- Pulse until smooth and creamy and salt to taste. Enjoy!