Picking Stinging nettles for pesto

Our daughter tried making this last week, and passed it on during a Mothers’ Day call.

Bringing a bagful of spring debris to dump over the edge of the steep hill above our marsh today, I saw hundreds of fresh nettles emerging from the leftover stalks of last year’s fireweed, devil’s club and dandelion.  I got some rubber gloves and a colander, and went to work.

We have been making our own pesto from homegrown basil for almost thirty years. Recently, we’ve started making cilantro pesto, and two weeks ago I made some arugula pesto.  Pestos are a great way to put perfectly ripe but overly abundant spicy greens into long-term storage.

Water coming to rolling boil for nettle pesto

You need to take care handling the nettles until they have been blanched.  After that, they are of no concern, but wash all the bowls and such that come into contact with the raw nettles.

For this batch, I combined what was about four cups of uncooked leaves (cooked down to a cup and a half of blanched, drained and de-moisterized nettles), a third of a cup of olive oil, two large garlic cloves, two-thirds of a cup of pine nuts, and two teaspoons of sea salt.

Ingredients ready for nettle pesto

It passed the taste test.  It tastes more like blanched spinach than anything else I can think of.  It is less fragrant than the pestos I’ve made before, as they are uncooked, whereas this is blanched.

Voila! - Nettle pesto

We will try it tonight, mixed with Bulgar wheat, alongside barbecue roasted Ling cod.