Stinging nettles – ouch!

Stinging nettle pesto
It’s been rainy and dreary in Vancouver and all I could think about lately is the summer. Clear skies, the warm sun on my face, and, my favourite, farmer’s markets galore! And although I will have to wait sometime to get some sun and blue skies, I don’t have to wait for the farmer’s market. After all, this IS Vancouver.

The Vancouver Winter’s Farmer’s Market has been ongoing all throughout this past winter at Nat Bailey Stadium. I know this has been happening for quite sometime now but I just haven’t been able to go! It’s only on Saturdays and for some reason, those days just always seem to be all booked up. Or, by the time I do decide to go out and do something and venture off, the market has been closed already (it closes at 2pm).

Luckily, I was able to catch the Winter Farmer’s Market recently at a decent hour, with the sun, AND clear blue skies. How sweet is that? And I made sure to not come home empty handed (or with an empty stomach). What did I end up with? Stinging nettles — perfect for a deliciously earthy batch of stinging nettle pesto.

I’ve always been curious about stinging nettles. The first and only time I have ever heard of the painful ingredient was on Bob Blumer’s “Glutton for Punishment”. He was eating them raw in a competition but the episode also featured people cooking it nestled inside ravioli, sauteed, and pureed into pesto. It sounded and looked heavenly. My turn.

Now, if this is your first time working with nettles, I will let you know that they do, indeed, sting!!! I touched them with my bare hands and it did leave a lingering stinging sensation – not fun. To get rid of the “sting”, it is advised that you blanch them for a minute in boiling water and wring out any leftover moisture afterwards. If you are using them raw, please use gloves and handle with caution. Raw nettles do have a lovely green bean/edamame taste, in my opinion. Tasty, and worth the pain.

Nettles also work as a great alternative substitute to leafy greens like spinach and kale. Although there aren’t many recipes online for nettles, I’ve seen it in soups, palak paneer, perogies, ravioli, pesto, and sauteed variations. But at $5 a bag, I wanted to make sure that nettles were in the forefront of my dish and not hiding in the background or behind some other dominant ingredient.

Pesto. Easy peasy. Herbs, garlic, parmesan cheese, lemon, olive oil, nuts — those are the basic ingredients of a pesto with varying adjustments. Please adjust it to taste. It tastes great on top of pasta, as a pizza base, on fish, as a dip… Get creative!

Need a visual? Check me out on Vine!
Stinging nettle pesto Stinging nettle pesto Stinging nettle pesto Stinging nettle pesto
Stinging nettle pesto

What you’ll need:
– 4 cups stinging nettles, stems included, loosely packed
– 3 garlic cloves
– 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
– 1/3 cup raw almonds
– 1/2 lemon, juice only
– 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, more if needed

What you’ll need to do:
1. Boil a small pot of water. Add the fresh nettles and blanche for 1 minute. Drain and let cool. Place the cooked, cooled nettles in a cheese or tea cloth and wring out any excess moisture.
2. In a food processor, place all of the ingredients and blend. If you’d like to thin it out more, add more olive oil accordingly.
3. Serve with rice, fish, pasta, pizza, etc. Makes 1 1/4 cups.

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6 thoughts on “Stinging nettles – ouch!

  1. Pingback: Je suis une pizza. | Umami & Me

  2. Pingback: An unlikely combination. | Umami & Me

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