A few weeks ago I posted a little about my love of cooking with stinging nettles and used them in some tasty ravioli. In my book, the only thing better than really tasty food is food which is not only delicious, but mostly free, incredibly healthy and so local that the food distance can be counted in yards rather than miles.
Just cook It. When my little dog Violet and I got out to the woods though, I saw that many of the nettles were just starting to form flower heads, which aren't tasty and pretty much signal the end of nettle-eating season. I decided there and then that I would pick a LOT and would make a pesto, which will last me a while so that I can still be munching long after the nettles are no longer worth picking.
I wore surgical-style latex gloves just as I did last time, but you know, I think that the little buggers have toughened up over the couple of weeks since my last harvest. I felt a few prickles through my gloves, by rather than walk the whole hundred feet back to my kitchen for thicker gloves, I toughed it out and continued picking until I had almost a grocery bag full.
When I got home, my fingers were tingling and prickling a little, as one might expect, but I must have been prickled more than I thought, because
All evening and into the night, my fingers on my right hand felt as though they'd been hit with hammers and were being repeatedly electrocuted. It wasn't until the following evening -so about 36 hours later- that the sensation subsided and I stopped whining about it.
So let this be a lesson to you all. Seems obvious, right? Wear thick gloves when you're picking nettles.
I made this pesto in the traditional way, but substituting nettle for almost all of the basil. We had it on some pizza that night and it was very tasty on some poached eggs the following morning.
Stinging Nettle Pesto
Makes about 1 kilo (2 lbs)
350g (12oz) well-washed nettle tops
500ml extra virgin olive oil
2 sprigs basil
75g parmesan, finely grated
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
Blanch the nettles and the basil in salted boiling water for 30 seconds, then plunge into ice-cold water to stop the cooking. This will kill the prickles and will help the leaves retain their bright green colour long after the pesto has been put away in the fridge
Put all of the ingredients except for half of the olive oil into a food processor and pulse for 30 seconds or so, until fairly uniformly chopped, scraping down the sides with a spatula if need be.
With the food processor running, pour the remaining olive oil in, until you have a thick, paste-like consistency. Really, you can make your pesto as thick and course or thin and smooth as you like just by adjusting the amount of olive oil.
I don't salt my pesto because I never know what I'm going to use it on, but you absolutely can if you prefer it a little seasoned.
I also made an all-sourdough pizza crust that night. It was incredibly crisp and chewy and quite sour, which my husband really loved. I'm going to do it one more time before I post the recipe though, just to make sure I get the same result.
06/05/10 P.S. Nettles are known for their hay fever-relieving properties. Christian came home from school today with red eyes, sneezing and congestion so I jumped into action and gave him a big spoonful of this pesto with a slice of quiche (recipe to follow) and within the hour he was feeling fine. Not just better, but totally fine. As James Wong would say "This was not a clinical trial, but many people find that natural remedies are as effective as conventional medicines"