Friday, January 7, 2011

How to Cook with Nettles and Make Nettle Pesto

If you ever played in the woods as a kid you probably got stung by nettles. It itched and burned for a few hours and then faded away. That’s because nettles have stinging hairs like tiny hypodermic needles. The toxic juice in the nettle hairs is a combination of acid and antigenic protein under pressure. When the needle penetrates the skin the tip breaks and the juice is injected.

But did you know that nettle is not only one of the most useful medicinal herbs, it can be eaten as a vegetable, like spinach! This “noxious weed” strengthens and supports the entire body. The fresh leaves may be steamed, sautéed, even added to soups, stews, and sauces. It can be lightly sautéed and layered in lasagna like spinach, or even steamed or blanched and then substituted for basil in pesto, called Pesto d’ Ortica in Italian. Don’t worry—drying or cooking neutralizes nettle’s stinging properties.

To read the full-text article "Don't Fear the Nettles," by ACHS Instructor Scott Stuart, which appeared in the May 2010 edition of the ACHS Reporter, click HERE.

Nettle Pesto Recipe

  • 6-cups course chopped nettle leaves (harvest the top few leaves)
  • 6 mint leaves 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1⁄3-cup pine nuts (or try walnuts)
  • 1⁄2- cup Parmesan
  • 1⁄2- cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
Pick nettle leaves from the stems wearing rubber gloves. Then rinse the nettles in a colander or salad spinner to remove any dirt and insects.

Bring a pan of water to boil and blanch nettles in boiling water for one minute – this will remove the sting. Drain well and squeeze out any excess moisture. You can also steam the nettles. Save the leftover liquid for soup stock or just drink as a tea.

Place all dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse until chopped up. Slowly add the oil while blending until the desired consistency is reached.

Taste and season as desired. It can be used right away over pasta, gnocchi, or pour just a little olive oil over the top in a sterilized jar and store in the fridge for up to a month.

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