nettle pesto

One of our all time spring favorites, this pesto takes some dedication.  stinging nettles, Urtica diocia, do just what their name says, they sting!  nettle plants are covered with many small hairs, some of these hairs are actually spines containing such wonders as histamines and formic acid!  spines when touched or rubbed against will sting, and in some cases cause a reddening and swelling of the skin (which is also why some folks actually sting themselves on purpose to ease head aches or rheumatoid arthritis)!  woah!  harvest thoughtfully, with care and with gratitude.  use gloves if necessary.  if you are lucky enough to have nettles available at your farmers market then get thee to them!  once nettles are lightly steamed or cooked they loose their sting.

This pesto is fantastically green and vibrant.  nettle is loaded with protein, calcium, vit a and c and iron.  nettles are best when harvested when the stalks are young.  once the nettle has "flowered" the plant becomes rough, fibrous and the "sting" is harder to break down.  if you find a large patch of nettle, you can tend it by only cutting the top six inches or so of the plant.  this will enable you a few cuttings over the course of spring and early summer while still allowing plenty of time for the nettle to flower and seed in the early fall.  check learningherbs for more info on where to find and harvest nettles. 

4 cups nettle leaves and young stalks

1/2 cup pecornio romano

1/2 cup walnuts, preferably soaked

1/2 -3/4 cup olive oil

1-3 cloves garlic

1 tsp sea salt

juice from 1/2 a lemon (1-2 Tbl)

Rinse and lightly steam nettle leaves and stalks until wilted, just a minute or two.  stain off excess water and let cool.  while i'm doing this i usually toast my walnuts and set them aside to cool as well.

Roughly chop the cooled nettles, the walnuts and the garlic and grate the cheese.  layer all the ingredients except for the oil in a blender, food processor or vita-mix.  pulse and begin to add the oil 1/4 cup at a time.  continue adding oil and pulsing until you reach your desired consistency.  transfer to mason jars and top each jar w/ a thin layer of olive oil, about 1/4 inch above your pesto, cap and refrigerate. 

You will be amazed at how many delicious uses there are for your pesto!  top your fried eggs with a dollop, spread it generously on whole-grain toast, add it to your bowl of soup just before serving, use it as a sandwich spread, eat it by the spoonful out of the jar.