I remember spending time at my Auntie's place on Hornby Island and I often visited around stinging nettle harvesting season. On the northwest coast stinging nettles are plentiful but the best time to harvest them for eating is in early to mid March. Nettles are very high in iron, help relieve seasonal allergies and aid in detoxification to name a few benefits. I remember making nettle pesto about 5 years ago and the mild stinging tingling sensation both my husband and I had after we ate the pesto. I've harvested nettle since for making nettle soup. Fast forward 5 years later and I was determined to make it again. This time I followed The Splendid Table's method of preparation and no tingling! Three items I highly recommend to use when harvesting the nettle: 1) kitchen shears 2)a large paper grocery bag, doubled and 3) a sturdy pair of rubber kitchen gloves ( I recommend "If you care" brand of sustainably and quality made natural rubber gloves). The amount of blanched nettles in my recipe will be enough to make a double batch of pesto so make sure to DOUBLE this recipe. The extra batch can be placed in the freezer in a glass mason jar (leave about an inch of space at the top). Prep time varies depending on how much nettles you gather but for the amount needed for 2 batches of pesto prep time is around 30-40 minutes.
Fill the sink or a large bowl with cold water. Using gloves submerge the nettles in the water and let them sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the nettles and discard the water. Wearing rubber gloves, pull the leaves from the stems and discard the stems.
Set a large pot of water to boil and add 2 tbsp sea salt. Once the water has boiled use gloves to transfer leaves to the water, cooking for 1 minute. Drain over a colander in the sink. Rinse with cold water and squeeze out as much of the water as possible from the nettles. I use two tea towels to get the moisture out of the nettles. The amount of nettles once you squeeze out the water equals about 2 large handfuls. Each handful will make 2 batches of nettles.
Place the nettles in the bowl of a food processor with the mint, garlic, pumpkin seeds or walnuts, lemon juice and sea salt Pulse until the mixture has formed a chunky paste. Enjoy with pasta, as an appetizer of crackers, as a pizza sauce/topping etc....or however you wish!
Serving Size 4 tbsp