We have a patch of wild nettles in our garden that we keep for the ladybirds, only this year I’ve decided to share it with the ladybirds by making wild nettle pesto. It’s ok to share at this time of year – ladybirds tend to lay their eggs in June to July – and you don’t want to be picking nettles after the end of May for health reasons anyway (more on that later).
Wild nettle pesto is really delicious stirred into pasta, in omelettes, on sandwiches, on pizzas, or incorporated into other recipes. It’s also super quick and easy to make – it takes less than 15 minutes to whip up. It tastes not too dissimilar to spinach pesto, and don’t worry, nettles lose their sting after being cooked, so there’s no chance of being stung! I loosely adapted this recipe and added chilli for an extra tasty kick.
If you don’t have a patch of nettles in your garden then its really easy to forage for wild nettles, as nettles are so ubiquitous in any woods or wild ground. There are a couple of plants that look like nettles, such as the False Nettle and Horse Balm, so do make sure you’re not in any doubt about what you’re picking. I found a handy guide to identifying nettles that you might find useful if you’re not 100% sure. I felt quite confident as we’ve had our patch of nettles for over four years now, and I’ve been stung a few times on them whilst gardening!
To make sure you don’t get stung whilst harvesting your nettles for the pesto wear long sleeves and gloves, and arm yourself with a pair of scissors and a container. To pick the nettles just cut the young leaves at the top of the stem off – you don’t want the big old leaves and thick stems. Give the leaves a shake before you put them in your container to remove any insects that might be on the leaves. And lastly, try not to pick beside paths where dogs might have widdled on them!
Wild nettle pesto is definitely a spring-time delicacy – make sure you pick your nettles before they flower as flowering nettles can upset your urinary tract if consumed. Depending on where you are you should be ok until late May.
Wild Nettle Pesto Recipe