Spring Harvest Pesto

5 stars from 1 rating of Nettle Pesto

Bravery Rewarded

I have travelled to almost every corner of the United States. Each area has its own unique beauty, but nowhere else have I found the diversity of plants that are here in my little corner of the world. My husband and I own a tiny little piece of the "Evergreen State"--one and one-half acres in the Puget Sound region.

When we bought the property years ago, it was completed blanketed with hazelnut, dogwood, maple, and alder trees and the undergrowth was a tangle of ferns, huckleberries, and briars. Twenty years later one acre has been pretty much "tamed"--wild berries and weeds have been replaced by shrubs, perennials and annual flowers. But the "back" one-half acre is still forested and wild. A nature trail meanders through that section of our property, providing an amazing display of native plants--huckleberries, ferns, trillium, and numerous wildflowers. We are so blessed to be here.


However, there is one rather unwelcome plant that raises its ugly little head each Spring--the stinging nettle. For the unaware or uninitiated, stinging nettles are a beautiful plant (see photo above), but the stems and leaves are covered with millions of tiny hairs--each one ready to release a painful dose of formic acid at the merest brush. The sting causes extreme pain and welts that can last anywhere from several hours to several days.

Well, guess what I did today? I harvested nettles!! Yes, call me crazy, but these denizens of the forest are wonderfully tasty and nutritious if you know how to conquer their "wild side". A brief simmer in boiling water is all that is needed to tame the beast and have a nutritious deep green vegetable ready to be sauted, simmered in soup, or turned into a rich pesto. Cooked nettles are slightly remeniscent of spinach, but less bitter.

(I wonder what brave soul first attempted to eat nettles?)

Where Do Stinging Nettles Grow?

where, throughout the world, stinging nettles have been found
where, throughout the world, stinging nettles have been found

Cook Time

Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 3 min
Ready in: 8 min
Yields: about 1 cup


  • 2 quarts stinging nettles, cooked per instructions and squeezed dry--to equal about 1 cup
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  1. First, you need to wear protective gloves when harvesting nettles. Not canvas or cotton--something non-absorbant such as vinyl or cowhide. Snip just the top part (or first three levels) of leaves and place in a clean bucket. Keep clipping until your bucket is full. Bring your harvest into the kitchen.
  2. Next, bring a large pot of water to boil.
  3. Don a clean pair of rubber gloves and place you nettles into the kitchen sink. Run a bit of water over your harvest and then begin plucking leaves from the plants. Place the leaves in a colander and discard the stems.
  4. Scoop the leaves into the boiling pot of water. Set your timer for 3 minutes, and stir the pot once or twice so that all of the leaves are submerged into the boiling water.
  5. After 3 minutes drain the cooked nettle leaves into a colander and let cool. When cool enough to handle, squeeze the water out of the cooked nettles (yes, they are safe to touch!). Give them a rough chop on your cutting board and then toss into the food processor. Now you're ready to make pesto.
  6. Place the prepared nettles, walnuts, garlic, and parmesan in a food processor. Whir until finely chopped. While the blade is moving slowly pour in the olive oil.
  7. Stop and taste your pesto. You'll probably need to add a bit of salt. If the mixture seems too thick, add some water (about 2 tablespoons).

What Makes This Recipe Work?

  • Nettles are easy to find -- and they are FREE!
  • Nettles are high in anti-oxidants
  • Nettles are high in Vitamins A and K
  • Nettles are a great source of iron and fiber

© 2013 Linda Lum

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Comments 2 comments

Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 3 years ago from Washington State, USA Author

Lizam - I have found that it is best to use fresh nettles--the ones that are no more than 10 or 12 inches tall. The older nettles tend to be more fibrous and stringy. Good luck with your quest and I hope you enjoy this pesto. I've not tried but I think you could freeze it as well.

Lizam1 profile image

Lizam1 3 years ago from Victoria BC

Well, your recipe has inspired me to consider harvesting some of our local nettles - there are local trails which have them in abundance here on Vancouver Island. Thanks.

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