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 here in Southern BC and much of the Pacific Northwest.
Many people see stinging nettles as an invasive weed, but they are actually a delicious food. 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.
Stinging nettles are abundant throughout much of the world. 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. Be careful, they bite!
How To Harvest Spring Nettle:
This pesto is ah-ma-zing, it’s really a classic pesto using 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.
Stinging Nettle Pesto
3 C fresh nettle leaves
4 garlic cloves
3/4 C pine nuts
1/4 C olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 Tbs lemon juice
3/4 C parmesan or asiago cheese, shredded (optional)
Put a pot of water on and when it’s 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!
Author: Chantelle Zakariasen
Apprentice Editor: Keeley Milne / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo Credit: Author’s Own