Spring is in full swing but you can still find fresh, tender nettles for harvest. Nutrient dense and delicious these local “weeds” are a culinary delight. Touted as a tonic herb, nettles are rich in minerals and cleanse the kidneys. They are astringent and provide relief from water retention, promote lactation, treat diarrhea and help control blood sugar.
The best leaves are the tender new growth of the top 3-4 leaves. Makes sure your wear gloves as the sting of nettles is no joke! The best plants are 1-2 feet high.
Two of my favorite ways to use fresh nettles are in tea and in pesto. Enjoy these seasonal delights!
Fresh Nettles Tea
- 4 cups nettle leaves
- 4 cups water
Boil water and then add leaves. Simmer for 5 min. Strain. Tea may be sweetened with honey if desired. It will have a grassy, green taste.
Makes 4 cups, enjoy 1-2 cups daily
Nettle Pesto or Pesto D’Urtica
I love making pesto. It’s fun to make it with greens other than basil too! Right now in my garden I have some Italian parsley that has over wintered. It makes delicious alternative or addition to a traditional pesto. It could easily be added to this recipe in place of some of the nettles for a fresh, healthy taste. I also use walnuts instead of pine nuts but feel free to substitute pine nuts if you wish or even pecans for a sweeter flavor.
- 3 cups nettle leaves (You can use the same ones that you reserved from the nettle tea otherwise simmer for only 1 minute and place in an ice water bath. Squeeze out all the water)
- 1 cup basil ( Optional: this will impart some of the traditional pesto flavor)
- 1 cup walnuts, pan toasted
- 1 cup parmesan cheese (optional)
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- ¾ cup olive oil
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 T lemon juice
Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until creamy.
Serve over polenta, pasta, or on grilled veggies