Stinging Nettle: Gives Pesto A Real Zap!

Stinging nettle pesto is really tasty! I wanted to make a raw vegan version and it came out great.

My recipe is:
*1/2 cup olive oil
* 5 large cloves of garlic, chopped
* 2 and 1/2 cups of stinging nettle tops, rinsed
* 1/2 cup of Bragg’s nutritional yeast (cheese substitute – I’m not vegan, I just like it)
* 1/2 cup of almonds (pine nuts are expensive right now!)
* A splash of water

After just a taste, I felt incredibly energetic. ‘Invigorated’ is the right word indeed! (Raw garlic might have factored into the zing, too). But if you’d prefer it without the oomph, wear gloves and make it the same way, then heat the pesto in a pan before you eat it. I just did that for dinner and it was incredible — smooth, creamy, delicious! Or try Seattle forager Langdon Cook’s more traditional version here.

Nettle, Urtica spp, is just barely tall enough to harvest here in the Pacific Northwest. It’ll be past its prime once it flowers in late May (as pictured). A sustainable way to harvest this plant is just to cut off the top few inches with a pair of scissors. It’ll grow back. This is called “deadheading.” Look for nettle in shady places, like forests and alleyways. It has a square stem like a mint. The flavor is similar to spinach.

Note: Stinging nettle contains formic acid, the same chemical that makes ant bites sting.

Happy harvesting! Put a real zing in your step! Share this post with your family and friends and give this unique pesto recipe a try.

Explore many more wild plants on the Search Plants! page.

16 thoughts on “Stinging Nettle: Gives Pesto A Real Zap!

  1. Pingback: The Dandelion Hunter | Forage Fix

  2. Pingback: 5 Things To Do With Stinging Nettle « First Ways

  3. Phytoalchemist nailed what I was gonna say. I mentioned the formic acid in my article on Culinate, and it is, indeed, the same chemical injected by biting ants. Bees are different.

    And personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with eating summer nettles! I think they’re especially fine for pesto – since they’re not as tender, whirring them up sort of breaks up the lignin.

      • I have eaten summer nettles but they’re not as tasty. Much of that is the texture. You make a good point though — in a blender with the other ingredients for pesto, that might not matter.

  4. Hey Becky, so I take it you didn’t cook this pesto? Did you whir it up in a food processor? Wonder if pulverizing completely deactivates the sting… My son learned a trick at camp. He grabs a nettle leaf underneath where there aren’t barbs and folds it up into a little package and pops it into his mouth. Freaks people out but he doesn’t get stung. Apparently the crushed stingers lose their zap.

  5. Hey – if you don’t want to cook them, this guy showed me how to eat them raw by gently-but-firmly rolling a few leaves (or a whole top) into a ball, then mashing it between thumb and forefingers. My fingertips start to throb after a while, but they don’t sting my mouth this way – at least if I’ve done it properly! Maybe mashing would work on the larger scale as well?

    I’ve been doing lots of stuff with the young nettles here lately, too, and have especially noticed the ‘zing’ of energy they give at this time of year. Teas and infusions from the fresh plant seem to ‘kick’ most strongly. I’m especially looking forward to how the ‘iron tonic’ I made turns out in a couple weeks’ time…


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