Nettle Pesto Recipe & ITB May

Before you read this recipe please note that it is also time for our Seasonal Food Blogging challenge, “In The Bag“. Basically you cook a dish using pre-selected seasonal ingredients, – this time Broccoli and Blue Cheese – blog about it, then send me an email with the link, photograph, and name of the recipe. Please send entries to scott [at] realepicurean [dot] com before 31st May 2009 for inclusion in the roundup. You can read here for a previous edition which outlines the rules in full. Read last months here.

I’ve had my eye on the stinging nettles near where I take the dog for a walk for a while now; nettles are one of natures great freebies and I really needed to grab some before it was too late (fresh young leaves are the best, so March / April are the best times). I’ve tried Nettle Soup before, which is fantastic, but never ventured further than that; now I can happily report that Nettle Pesto is delicious too.

Nettle Pesto
Nettle Pesto

Luckily the weather this weekend has been superb. We ventured off the beaten track a little bit to try and grab nettles that were less likely to have been marinated in dog pee; Gosia (who is now 8 months pregnant) typically took over the majority of the picking duties.

“I used to pick nettles for my Auntie to feed to the ducks”, she said, before giving me a lesson in how to pick them without getting stung. Grabbing them by the stem instead of the leaf seems to be the key – it apparently worked for Gosia but no such luck for me as I stung my hand on the first attempt and then again on the second. In the end I gave up and resorted to the tried and tested rubber glove tactic.

Try the pesto mixed with your favourite pasta, or spooned over a freshly cooked lamb steak. I’m sure you’ll like it!

Once you’ve checked out this recipe perhaps you’d like to check out a couple of articles elsewhere which gave me the inspiration to try it; River Cottage’s “What’s Good Now” for March, Egg But No Bacon’s Nettle Pesto and delicious:day’s Radish Leaf Pesto Recipe.

Nettle Pesto Recipe – Ingredients

  • 1/3 of a Carrier Bag full of Nettle tips.
  • 6 Garden Mint leaves
  • 1 Clove garlic
  • 75g (2.6 oz) Pine Nuts
  • 100g (3.5 oz) Parmesan
  • 75ml (2.5 fl. oz)Extra Virgin Rape Seed Oil (This works really well with the nettles. More about this in a future post!)
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste

Nettle Pesto Recipe – Ingredients

  1. First start out by picking your nettle leaves from the stems – it’s best to use rubber gloves to do this. You’ll then need to rinse the nettles in a colander to remove any dirt, insects etc.
  2. Bring a pan of water to the boil and place your nettles inside for one minute – this will remove the sting. Drain well and squeeze out any excess moisture.
  3. Place all dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse until chopped up. Slowly add the oil whilst blending until the desired consistency is reached (mine needed about 75ml / 2.5 fl. oz).
  4. Taste and season as required. It can be used straight away or stored in sterilised jars for around a month in the fridge.

One last note. I poured away the water which I used to cook the nettles but this bright green liquid would make a fantastic tea or base for a soup.


  1. Looks lovely – all brilliant and green.

    Ha. Funnily enough my weekend blog is going to be about Blue Cheese (dressing)! No broccili though, so will have to dream something else up for ITB!

    1. I hope you do; the more entrants the better. I need to think of mine yet – at the moment I have no ideas!

  2. This looks great! I’ve also been eyeing-up a patch of nettles (in an empty field behind us – so no dog pee) and I’m determined to have a go at making something with them. Your post has just reminded me that I really ought to do it soon!

    1. True; it’ll soon be too late for this season and then you’ll regret it! Later in the year (towards the end of summer) most nettles will start a second spurt of growth which will give you another chance, though.

  3. Very interesting… I must admit I have never tried nettle. When I was a child during my holidays on Crooked Mountain (Krzywa GΓ³ra, Puszcza Kampinoska) I used to help pick nettles for ducks ;)))


    1. Like my wife, you say that so nonchalantly, as if every child feeds nettles to ducks. I didn’t even know ducks ate nettles until she told me; perhaps that just shows how little attention I paid when I was younger.

  4. I don’t even know if i know nettles. How unfortunate for me:-( I’ll do a google & see what it looks like. Pesto looks vibrant.

    1. I think nettles is one of those thing every British kid knows, purely from the sting if nothing else. Ouch!

  5. First, I cringed when you said “I needed to GRAB some…” Ouch! That’s all I can remember about stinging nettles. So I had to read on because my curiosity was definitely peaked in regards to …how the heck do they NOT sting your tongue?! I was relieved when boiling them was the answer.
    This is a recipe that I just HAVE to tell my Mum and Dad about. It will be interesting to see if they every had a dish which included stinging nettles. I know they have never mentioned it. All I’ve heard is “JOANNE! Don’t touch those!” Great post!

    1. There so many more things you can do with nettles, too. How about nettle tea? Also delicious and apparently very good for you – if you don’t get stung picking them, that is!

    1. That’s why you need an “other half” – so they can pick them for you πŸ˜‰

  6. Wow Scott you’ve really got a system going here. You reply to all comments on a Sunday starting at 11.30 am.
    Lovely pictures and I will definitely have a go at the nettle pesto.

    1. Coincidence, I’m sure! I sometimes go for weeks without doing anything – I’m unprofessional like that πŸ˜‰

  7. The pesto looks amazing and great use of a freebie from mother earth.

    I have been on the lookout for nettles but no luck. Stupid being stuck in a smaller city that is over developed with little no woods. The off the beaten paths we do have can be scary too.

    1. Ah yes, definitely not worth getting mugged for the sake of some nettles. Which city are you “stuck” in?

    1. Agreed – it looks great on pasta too but unfortunately the photograph of that looked awful and so didn’t make the post!

    1. Kind of like traditional basil pesto – only a but spicier and, perhaps, beefier (wrong choice of words but I don’t know how to describe it).

    1. Hi Laila,
      Only one way to find out…Give it a go and let me know how it works out for you.

    1. Soon to be replaced by Summer. I do love seasonality but I always feel like I’m looking forward to the next one!

    1. The rape seed oil is a golden yellow colour, so that enhances the green of the nettles. It did taste delicious, too!

  8. what is a Carrier Bag?

    recipe looks delicious

    I planted nettles in my herb garden, next to the Jerusalem artichokes. Some people talk about invasiveness and think I’m nuts to plant such things. But I have them when they’re ready, and I learn more about them from having them nearby and taking care of them. And I have them in a kind of back garden where the wild things are.

    1. Hi Billy, a carrier bag is a plastic bag like you get in the supermarket.

      Great idea to have nettles in your garden – so obvious but I can imagine most people don’t think to do it for the reasons you point out.

  9. I never knew you could eat nettles, I always remember my mom and grandma saying stay away from them. But that pesto looks amazing! I think I may try my hand at your challenge using broccoli and blue cheese, never did a challenge like that before so who knows LOL Great site you have here!

    1. Thanks Brenda. I really do hope you manage to join in with “In The Bag”…It’s gonna be great!

  10. “marinated in dog pee” hahahahahhahaha… so true

    Your pesto looks delicious. I just made a soup with pureed nettles and love the green flavour it imparts.

    1. Nettle soup is a great dish. I remember the first time I had it and was blown away really – it was so distinctive and I didn’t expect that at all.

  11. Wow – look at that intense green colour! I must ‘fess up to major wussiness though – the idea of approaching a nettle freaks me out a little, having been stung once too often!

    1. Well someone at work told me that the nettles with flowers don’t sting. I don’t know if I believe that or not but will Google it one day when I have nothing else to do.

      1. Nettles with flowers definitely sting – and by the time they have flowers they’re too tough.

        Enjoy them when they’re tender and young – just use rubber gloves πŸ™‚

  12. This sounds wonderful! I’ve been meaning to do something with wild nettles (besides let them sting me, LOL), and I’m a huge pesto fan. Thanks for the great idea. πŸ™‚

    1. Nettles have been a nuisance since I was a child, it’s great to be able to get your own back!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *