March 14, 2014

Stinging Nettle Misadventures: Raw Nettle Pesto

So I promised I would talk about the trickier part of the endeavor to foraging for and eating stinging nettle: the processing. To learn about how we collected our nettles (and why you would want to do that) visit our previous post on foraging for stinging nettles.

There is a right way to process stinging nettle and a wrong way to process it. The right way is to use heavy rubber gloves to hold each individual nettle plant while removing the leaves from the stem and washing the leaves (or vice versa). This allows one to handle the stinging nettle without actually having to deal with the stinging.

And then there is the wrong way to process stinging nettle. Guess which one we did?

We made sure while we were harvesting the nettles that we had thick cloth or leather gloves so we didn't get stung. But those types of gloves obviously don't work very well when washing under water. Once we returned home, we didn't have any rubber gloves on hand, so we decided to improvise and use some old plastic produce bags on my hands instead. It worked for awhile (even thought it was a little awkward). But it became painfully obvious when the bags stopped working. There is nothing quite like that stinging/numb feeling one gets when dealing with stinging nettle. I got a mild sting on both of my index fingers and Kristy receive a small sting as well. These plants were pretty small so they had not reached full potency, but that didn't mean they still couldn't hurt. So I must emphasize this: make sure that you have the proper gloves before you begin!

Other than that, the actual processing was fairly straight forward. To eliminate the stinging to make it safe to eat you either need to steam or pulverize the leaves. In order to preserve all of the nettle's nutrition, we decided to make a raw pesto. So here is the recipe for you to try yourself.

Vegan Pesto with Nettle Leaves
  • 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 4 cloves garlic
Place these first four ingredients into a food processor and process until is forms a fine flour.
  • 1/2-2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Then add these three ingredients and process again.
  • 4-6 cups packed nettle leaves 
Finally and carefully add the nettle leaves and process (while still using your gloves!) You may need to process one cup of leaves at a time to obtain a smooth texture.

Just the act of processing the leaves will remove the stinging hairs, even without cooking. We were skeptical at first that we didn't need to cook the leaves before eating the pesto. But we have had nettle pesto like this on two separate occasions, and there was thankfully no stinging sensation associated with eating it. 

Once you have made the pesto, you can use it however you would standard pesto. We used it on mini pizzas and then again tonight on spaghetti squash (since we currently are avoiding grains...which means that pasta was out). But the options are limitless. So get to it and enjoy!

(This post was shared at Old Fashioned Fridays, Homestead Barn Hop, Natural Living Mondays, The Backyard Farming Connection, Tuesdays with a Twist, and the Maple Hill Hop, the Down Home Hop, Home Acre Hop, and From the Farm Hop)


  1. This must be very healthy! I love nettle tee, but that is about all I do with nettle. Thank you for a new idea.

  2. YUM. Great recipe. Our acreage is rampant with wild nettle so I'm always looking for good uses for them. Last year we made vegan gf nettle burgers :)

    1. You those sound tasty! Do you have a recipe for them on your blog by chance? My sister wants to go out foraging with me this weekend and I would love some more recipes to try with them this week.

    2. I do! I'm excited to eat them again once the snow melts in a month; they are a large food source for us in the springtime before our garden greens come in.

    3. Thanks Isis! Those sound so tasty!

  3. Interesting post!
    We have patches in our pasture, the goats love it.


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