Monday, February 29, 2016

How to make nettle pesto, and why everyone should eat it


How to make nettle pesto, and why everyone should eat it. There. I should-ed on you. Although I usually don't tell people what to do, I urge everyone to eat nettle pesto.   

Why?

Because nettles are so, so good for you, and because I think nettle pesto tastes better than traditional pesto made with basil. My kids agree.

Since they are rich in vitamins A, C, D, K, and lots of minerals including iron, potassium, manganese, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silica, iodine, silicon, sodium and sulfur, the health benefits of nettles are immense.  Filled with chlorophyll, tannins, B complex vitamins, and made up of 10 percent protein, nettles are a powerhouse for health.

I get dizzy reading about this plant's health benefits.  Nettles are a diuretic and are used to treat anemia, arthritis, rheumatism and respiratory and urinary problems.  Nettles help with eczema, asthma and sinusitis.  They are a great blood purifier and protect against skin disorders, hair loss, kidney stones, allergies, hay fever, osteoarthritis, internal bleeding, nosebleeds, enlarged spleen, diabetes, endocrine disorders, stomach acid, diarrhea, dysentry, lung congestion, and cancer.

If you want to read more about the medicinal qualities of nettles, read this.

Now do you see why I'm telling you to make nettle pesto?



How to make Nettle Pesto - Recipe below

Find a patch of nettles in the spring time.  This is the season when they first come up and are not tough, but nice and tender.  Don't be fooled, though! Nettles aren't called stinging nettles as a joke! If they touch your bare skin, you will get hurt. Getting stung by a nettle is no fun at all, so wear long sleeves and gloves.





In case you do get stung, grab a plantain leaf, chew it up in your mouth, and then put it, together with your spit, on the area that got stung.  I swear it works to take the sting out every single time.

Cut only the top portion of the nettle (the first 2 or 3 inches), because lower down they get fibrous.

Either use scissors or just break them off between your (gloved!) thumb and index finger.







When you've collected enough (see recipe below), head into the kitchen and fill a large pot halfway with water.  Once the water boils, put your nettles in the pot (either with tongs or your gloved hands), and push them down with a spoon so they are submerged in the boiling water.

This takes the sting out of the nettles.  Only leave them in the water for one minute - that's truly all it takes to remove the sting. Then take them out with a slotted spoon, tongs or colander, since you want to save the water for drinking later.  Some nutrients leached into that water, so you might as well drink it, or water your houseplants with it once it's cooled.

Some people now put the nettles into ice water to preserve the nice, green color, but I never do, since it's an extra step and the nettles always stay green for me.

I just put the nettles into a colander and let them drain well.








Recipe

  • 2 cups fresh nettles (or more if you have lots - this pesto freezes well!)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (or pine nuts)
  • 1 1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Cut 4 cloves of garlic (or more if you like garlic a lot) into a few pieces and throw them into a food processor.  My trusted old Cuisinart does a lovely job.  I like to cut the garlic into a few pieces because they sometimes get stuck in the blade if I don't.  



Add 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 cup olive oil, and drained nettles and chop them in the food processor.  

Add 1/2 cup walnuts and 1 1/2 cups parmesan and process them all til everything is smooth.  Usually, pesto calls for pine nuts, but I find them too expensive.




Voila!  You are done!

Adjust the taste. Some people add more salt and pepper, more or less garlic, and more or less parmesan.  Do you want it more liquid? Add more olive oil.

I serve pesto with pasta.  It's also great on pizza.

If you have lots of nettles, just double, triple, or quadruple this recipe.  I love making LOTS of nettle pesto and freezing it in quart freezer bags.  







If you liked this tutorial and want to learn more, please sign up for my mailing list to get more inspiration and free tutorials.  When you sign up here, you get my free ebook "Three Essential Skills for the Homesteader and Urbanite"!

25 comments:

  1. I heard of the wonderful properties of nettles on a nature walk to see elephant seals at Ano Nuevo north of Santa Cruz. The intrepid naturalist even pinched a bit of nettle with her fingertips and crushed them saying this takes the sting out too. Then she offered us a taste. Very green and tasty. I can see how nettles would make great pesto. Thanks for the idea. Now I just have to find some nettles.

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    1. Yes, we do that a lot here, too: carefully pick the tops of nettles, pinch them between our fingers to take the sting out, and then eat them raw. It's like Popeye - you put them in your mouth, and your muscles start bulging!!! They are that powerful!

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    2. I just haven't seen nettles around here. Seems like they are moisture loving plants.

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  2. I planted nettle last year and was happy to see they are doing well and spreading. When we still lived in the townhome, I dug up some wild nettle and kept them in pots under my deck. Great for drying for teas and eating fresh steamed, and now I have a recipe for pesto - yay!

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    1. It makes me smile that people plant nettles, while most people consider them a weed! Good for you! I usually drink nettle tea, but when they are fresh in spring, it's great to make pesto, or even quiche instead of using spinach.

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  3. I harvest nettles and either make pesto or just blanch and freeze them for putting in soups later, and dry them for tea. I always go back and forth on if I should mess with rinsing them before blanching them because I do drink/use the blanching water. Do you wash/rinse yours before blanching? I do not wash/rinse the ones I dry for tea.

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    1. I don't wash mine before blanching. I figure the boiling water is enough. Where I pick, it's clean, so I don't worry. I suppose it wouldn't be hard to just rinse them under some cold water if you are unsure, but I don't like extra steps!

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  4. It grew by the river where we used to live, but it was a long hike, so I brought some home to live with us!

    Even though we live in a valley surrounded by rivers, the closest wild patch requires driving, so I took seeds from my herb farmers batch (those seeds sting too, did you know? Ouch!) I am posting a chickweed pesto recipe soon (seekingjoyfulsimplicity.com), and I am including a link to your nettle pesto recipe. (Chickweed pesto is a brilliant green, and stays that way even after freezing, lovely!)

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    1. Michelle, smart thinking, bringing nettle seeds home with you! I hope your plants are thriving. They are popping out all over the place here!
      Thanks for linking to my pesto recipe. I'll check out your chickweed pesto!

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    2. Is chickweed the same as lambsquarters?

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    3. No, Renee, chickweed and lambsquarters are different.

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  5. i use a lot of nettle for various things but I worry about people randomly foraging for what they think is nettle, also after it's boiled and eatin with cheese and pasta your power house of nutrients is practically canceled out, but hey pat on the back for eating stuff you found outside right?

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  6. Hi Corina,
    I started following your blog just recently on the recommendation of a friend, and I love reading your posts. A friend and I made 8 batches of your nettle pesto recipe yesterday, and it is delicious. I think I like it even more than basil pesto, and it's perfect timing, since I just ran out of homemade basil pesto from summer the other day. Thank you!

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    1. Kirsten, I'm so glad you like my blog! Welcome! You are so right: nettle pesto is better than basil pesto!

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  7. Be sure when advertising nettle consumption, to also advertise planting nettles in your yard. Remind people not to over-harvest any one plant, don't take more than about 20% off the top; above a node is even better. Try not to forage in a place that has already been effected by human foraging, and look for eggs under the leaves or plants that look like they have been munched on by insects. Butterfly populations have shown massive decrease in places where nettles are commonly foraged. Respect the wildlife, use moderation and give back to the ecosystem :)

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  8. I drink fresh nettle tea for arthritis pain, it works better than any asprin, nsaid or Tylenol for me!! I love this stuff!

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    1. I drink lot of nettle tea, too! I'm glad you love it!

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  9. You want to be careful where you harvest, nettles can pick up environmental toxins... so don't pick right next to big Ag!

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    1. Yes, true! And don't pick next to the road where they spray nasty stuff.

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  10. I grow nettles all winter in the greenhouse, much to the annoyance of people receiving a sting but also have plantain. I put it in a bucket of water twice a week to use the nettle tea for my plants makes them grow really well. Now the greenhouse will have to share with me. I make pesto from the kale and chard I grow in the winter and from celantro with mint in the summer. Thank you for this great idea it is full of great minerals and vitamins and in my organic greenhouse it is clean.

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    1. I love this idea of growing them in your greenhouse, and I love that you mention making nettle tea for your plants as a fertilizer. It's such good stuff!

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  11. Hi love your blog and nettle pesto! I grow nettles by the river beside my home(and in my garden) and collect them for tea and to use as a green, but I was wondering when you collect them for drying, or tea do you still only take the tops?

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    1. Thanks for your nice feedback! As far as drying the nettles for tea, I don't just use the tops but the whole long stalk. Don't collect them when they are too mature and fibrous though. I just dry the whole stalk and then take gloves and strip off the dried leaves and compost the stalk.

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  12. Sounds delicious! I'm learning to forage and I love it!

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