Did you know that Britain’s oldest recipe, dated from 6000 BC, was nettle pudding? 8,000 years ago our ancestors knew the magic of the simple stinging nettle. I remember as a child making nettle tea with my cousins, which is quite remarkable since I hated tea until I was an adult. I also hated nettles and would thwack them with a stick, pretending I was Indiana Jones in The Temple of Doom. Sorry nettles. Recipes have got a bit more exciting now though, with the likes of lentil & nettle curry, nettle & wild garlic soup, nettle ravioli, and lemon & nettle cupcakes to name a few.
This wonder plant helps rid the body of excess toxins, improves the nutrient uptake efficiency of the gut and aids digestion. Ladies, nettles got our back for sure: they can ease painful labour, stop excessive bleeding by acting as a coagulant, and also soothe menstrual cramps and bloating. They are high in Vitamin C and iron, boosting energy levels and relieving fatigue. Nettles are also anti-inflammatory, and can help lower blood pressure. The list goes on…
I wanted to show you how easy it is to make a delicious nettle pesto, and the healing and health properties of nettles are an added bonus really. Not to mention they are FREE! I don’t know about you, but the thought of a refreshing, yet comforting, bowl of nettle pesto pasta with a cold glass of white wine in the evening sun is one of the best thoughts I’ve had all year.
(you will be blanching them like spinach so they will wilt down)
1/3 cup walnuts (other nuts work well too)
2 garlic cloves
2-3 tbsp cheese (nutritional yeast/vegetarian Grana Padano/Parmesan/or emit it altogether as toasting your nuts gives pesto richness)
Good quality olive oil
Squeeze lemon juice (optional)
Go into the woods, your garden, or wherever there might be some young stinging nettles. Wearing gloves, pick two or three big handfuls.
Prepare a large bowl filled with ice cold water, then bring another large pot of salted boiling water to the boil. Still wearing gloves, drop the nettles and stir. Boil for about a minute or two, no more
Remove with a slotted spoon and drop into the ice water. This process of blanching the nettles keeps their vibrant green colour and gets rid of their sting. Once they are cold you can put them in a colander or sieve to drain and squeeze out the excess moisture. Dice the nettles and leave them to one side
Add the garlic to the pestle and mortar and pound, then toast the walnuts on a low flame and bash them up too
Add the nettles and half the cheese, if using, and bash to a paste
Begin drizzling in olive oil, a little at a time. Taste the pesto, add more cheese if you like, or more oil
Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
Side note: when storing your pesto, keep in an airtight container in the fridge, and drizzle olive oil lightly over it until it is completely coated. This barrier will keep the pesto fresh and it will last longer this way.
You can read more about the health benefits of nettles here: