Nettles Pesto

A giant stinging nettles bush climbs up the side of the little red barn in my backyard.  Although we’ve been in this house for 9 years, it’s taken me half that time to pay any mind to it.

The bush literally caught up with the boys first; they complained that it “bit” them whenever a 3-way collision of plant, child and a baseball occurred.  Back in those days, with 2 little ones, and always in a rush to clean something, cook something, or get somewhere, I would file this semi-monthly complaint along with all the others.  Finally, I figured out what this mysterious plant was, and that while I needed to keep the boys away from it, it might be advantageous to get myself closer.

Moving to the present, I have entered into a culinary relationship with the nettles plant in my backyard.  A wild edible, in my opinion, nettles is both superfood and superherb.  Nettle leaf is thought to be anti-inflammatory, helpful with seasonal allergies and calming to the nervous system.  Nettle root is regarded in herbalist circles as a natural aromatase inhibitor, meaning that it has been shown to prevent the “good” hormones from turning into “bad” hormones, that is, the type of bad hormones that cause cancer and other dis-ease.

This raw Nettles Pesto does taste very healthy, however, I couldn’t stop eating it and neither could my tasters. This naturally gluten free pesto has a slightly astringent taste, the strong flavor of basil and a nice lemony tang to it. If you decide to find yourself a nettles plant and make it, I hope you’ll stop back by to let me know your impression.

Nettles Pesto

Print Recipe
  • 2 cups stinging nettles leaves, packed
  • 1 cup basil leaves, packed
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  1. Place nettles leaves, basil, lemon juice, olive oil and garlic in a food processor
  2. Pulse ingredients until almost smooth
  3. Serve on cucumbers, yellow peppers, or crackers

According to Wikipedia:

Stinging nettle has a flavor similar to spinach when cooked and is rich in vitamins A, C, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium. In its peak season, stinging nettle contains up to 25% protein, dry weight, which is high for a leafy green vegetable. The young leaves are edible. Nettles can be used in a variety of recipes, such as pesto. Nettle soup is a common use of the plant, particularly in Northern and Eastern Europe.

Be advised, if you pick stinging nettles, you may want to wear gloves.  When lightly touched, the leaves cause a mild rash.  When I picked the nettles for this pesto yesterday, I again used my bare hands.  My 12 year old wore gardening gloves and was even stung once through them.  It is thought that deliberately stinging oneself with the nettles plant is a quick, easy, and free way to relieve symptomatic arthritic pain.

Last year, I did a little experiment and let the nettles sting me to see if it would heal any of my remaining symptoms from this diagnosis.  Unfortunately, I can only report that the results of this investigation were inconclusive.


35 responses to “Nettles Pesto”

  1. Like Polly, I was also wondering what makes them not sting when you eat them? We have loads of nettles just outside our garden, so I’ll have to try this.

  2. Well, I learned something today! My son takes a nettle leaf supplement to combat his seasonal allergies (it works very well), but I had no idea you could make pesto with it!

  3. Over the last few years I have become accustomed to the nettle’s sting and I can pick them ungloved. I do find it somewhat beneficial for my stiff, slightly arthritic right hand. This pesto sounds delish! I bet it would be excellent for gnocchi. I usually just sauté nettles with garlic and serve with balsamic or lemon juice. Creamy nettle soup is good but tastes a little “scallopy” so I have to be in the mood. I also dry a lot throughout the summer (I have a couple of large patches) to keep on hand as an addition to soups and broths or for tea. I usually mix it with anise hyssop and spearmint for tea.

  4. I have tried this:
    if you are stung by a nettle take a leaf and crumple it a gloved hand is best and rub leaf on affected area to help with the sting.

    I work out of door with teen in the summer


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Recipes » Condiments » Nettles Pesto