Nettle pesto

I’m trying not to talk about the weather at the beginning of every post. But it’s difficult after a week like this, when the changes outside were frenetic. We had a hard, day-long rainstorm last week then more rain, intermittent sunshine and pockets that were overcast and perfect for schlepping the camera along on a nature walk.

One morning my mom and I grabbed our cameras and set out for a trail that’s not far from our house. I must have two-dozen of these skunk cabbage blooms and not one of them catches the light like I remember. In real life, they looked almost luminescent against the gray water and shaded undergrowth. The flat light made everything glow.

Although we got away for an hour to snap photos along the path, I didn’t make it out to forage again. I think that’s a good thing, after reading Chie’s story about foraging (below today’s recipe). I still have some to learn about being mindful in the woods; remembering that we’re borrowing from plants that are integrated into a neighborhood that includes ferns, shrubs, animals, insects, trees and mosses. It’s not a shopping trip.

I purchased the nettles for today’s recipe from our food co-op. They were a little worse for wear after being smooshed in a bag, as you can see. But these little guys are wildcrafted and local, harvested by the farm that supplied us with vegetables last season.

I made the pesto on Sunday and my kids, who are in the habit of turn their noses up at anything green on their pasta (sigh) were enamored with the idea of a raw nettle recipe, asking the same question I did at a potluck last spring when I tried a dip made with raw nettles for the first time, “Will it sting my tongue?”

It doesn’t, incredibly. Finely chopping the nettles smashes their trichomes flat, negating the stinging effect. Eating them raw retains the full nutrient hit, too. (There are others who know much more than I do about medicinal herbs – start here for a quick overview and a tasty looking recipe).

I used the full complement of garlic but the cloves were large and the end product was pretty dang strong. Next time I’ll start with one clove and add more to taste. If you like a lemony pesto, the proportions below will delight you. If you like a little less citrus, hold back some of the zest and juice, adding in a little at a time at the end, as you would salt and pepper.

Nettle pesto

by Chie

I was honored to harvest nettles with a dear friend last week who
is an herbalist and forager. For low impact, she follows the rule to
harvest only 1 out of 10 plants in a given area. She often harvests
without gloves since she listens to the plants. She harvests only the
nettles she is drawn to, as if they are saying “take me home.” When
she doesn’t pay attention to that, a stinger gets her. She taught me
how to harvest only what I will use and to let the others grow and stay
in the forest.

The following is a recipe that I made over the weekend. I was inspired
to toss them with small, ghee-fried Yukon Gold potatoes. What a treat!

6 cups gently packed nettles, fresh leaves and tender stems
1 handful of fresh basil
½ c pumpkin seeds, raw*
2 T sesame seeds, toasted
3 cloves garlic
1 whole lemon, juice and zest
1 t Celtic sea salt
½ – ¾ c extra virgin olive oil

*I prefer to soak my seeds overnight for easier digestibility. I usually
dehydrate them and keep them on hand for making trail mixes,
sprinkling on oatmeal and making raw crackers.

Combine all ingredients, except the oil, in a food processor and
process until finely ground. Scrape the sides. While the processor
is running, slowly pour the olive oil until the mixture is fairly smooth.

Adjust with salt and lemon.

Enjoy with salmon, new potatoes, chicken, grilled vegetables,
pasta and more!

8 thoughts on “Nettle pesto

  1. Gorgeous photos.. how do you get them so perfectly lit in your kitchen?? If only everyone approached foraging and nature with such gentle hands.. beautiful writing today! And a great recipe! xo Smidge

    • Aw, thank you Smidge! I take most of my photos just outside on our back porch. When I do manage to take some inside I use a flash directed at the ceiling or the wall, a Speedlite 430EX II. I have a lot to learn about lighting, though!

  2. Your photos make me want to head outside with my camera. Nicely done. And I had the same question about eating the nettle pesto as you and you kids did. The recipe is enticing.

Comments are closed.