Rain, crocuses unfolding their pastel petals, and the vibrant green of nettles herald spring. If you are lucky enough to live in a nettle blessed land, this recipe is a delicious early contribution from nature’s bounty.
Nettles are rich in calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, zinc and vitamins A, B, C, D, and K. For some of us this nutrient powerhouse literally grows on its own accord in our back yards. Most people avoid nettles due to their stinging ability, but don’t let this keep you from one of the best pesto recipes I have ever tasted.
Harvesting nettles can be easy and pain-free. Here is what you need: a paper bag, scissors or garden pruners and gloves. Make sure you wear long sleeves to avoid brushing the nettles as you work. With your gloved hands, grasp the fresh new growth, cut with your scissors only the new growth and place into the paper bag. When harvesting nettles, I choose a large group of plants and never take more than 25%. This is a good rule to follow when wildcrafting. Sustainability is crucial.
Blanching deactivates the formic acid in nettles, the cause of their stinging sensation. This allows you to eat without trepidation.
When using the cashews, soak them in salt water (1 tablespoon unrefined sea salt per quart of fresh water) for 12-24 hours to increase their nutritional availability. Soaking deactivates the phytates. Phytates are like vitamin chaperones. They bind to the vitamins and minerals creating a molecule complex too large to be absorbed by your gut.
Use this pesto on noodles, crackers, sandwiches, in soups or as a vegetable dip.
6 cups fresh nettle tops
1 cup soaked and drained cashews
4 cloves garlic
1/3-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
Unrefined sea salt and pepper to taste
In a colander rinse the nettles with water to remove any soil or debris.
Boil 4 quarts of water in a large stock-pot. Using a spoon to avoid touching the nettles, scoop the rinsed nettle tops into the boiling water. Blanch nettles for 1 minute. Strain through a colander, pressing out as much water as possible. This should yield about 2 cups of blanched nettles.
In a food processor, process cashews until they are slightly broken down. Add nettles, garlic, lemon juice and 1/3 cup of olive oil. Process until desired consistency is reached, adding more olive oil if necessary. I like my pesto with texture and not a smooth paste. Add salt and pepper to taste.
This pesto is best when the flavors are allowed to meld at least overnight.
Store in an airtight glass container in the refrigerator.
Use within 10 days.
Makes about 1 pint.
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