Spring Harvest Pesto
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 Twenty years later one acre has been pretty much "tamed"--wild berries and weeds have been replaced by shrubs, perennials and annual flowers.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?
- 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
Garden Gloves for Nettle Gathering
- 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.
- Next, bring a large pot of water to boil.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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