Nettles are springing out of the ground right now as the weather gets milder, fresh and juicy and full of useful minerals and vitamins.
In the days before clever storage and long-distance transport, they were vital to people in northern latitudes when there were no fresh vegetables to be had. You’ve probably come across nettle soup, but here’s another way to make use of this early spring bounty.
Nettle Pesto (courtesy of Christine Haughton at www.purplesage.org.uk)
Wearing gloves to guard against the stings, collect enough young nettle tops to fill a one pint saucepan. If you can find wild garlic (Ramsons or Allium ursinum), gather a bunch of leaves and flowers too, and some sprigs of garlic mustard (Jack-by-the-hedge or Alliaria petiolata). Blanch the leaves in boiling water for one minute, and drain.
Nettle leaves, garlic mustard and wild garlic, blanched and drained (if you can’t find wild garlic, two crushed cloves of garlic will do)
A handful of fresh basil leaves
4 ounces of pine nuts
4 ounces of grated parmesan, pecorino or grana padano cheese
8 fluid ounces of extra virgin olive oil
Put everything into a liquidizer, and blend. Spoon into jars; if you cover the pesto with a little olive oil, it will keep better. Store it in the fridge and use like any other pesto.