This is just the right time of year to find new, tender nettles growing all over the place, by hedgerows, in woodland and quite possibly in your garden. Before you attack them, think about cultivating a patch for cooking. Or take a carrier bag (and some gloves!) out with you and get a load to make tea, soup or maybe this nettle and pumpkin seed pesto.
The quantities can be scaled up or down pretty easily, depending on how many nettles you’ve got. 80g of nettles is about two or three gloved handfuls. Instead of pumpkin seeds, you can use the traditional pine nuts or walnuts. I used oregano just because it’s what’s in the garden – I wouldn’t use basil for this, but parsley would be a good alternative.
Nettle & Pumpkin Seed Pesto
- 80g young nettle leaves, stalks trimmed out (they are stringy) and washed
- 60g pumpkin seeds
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 200ml extra virgin olive oil
- 3-4 tablespoons finely grated parmesan (or a hard pecorino)
- 1-2 teaspoons of fresh oregano or marjoram
- juice of 1/2 a lemon
- salt to taste
- First, lightly toast the pumpkin seeds. Use 1-2 tbsp of olive oil, heat (don’t let it smoke) & add seeds. Stir them around until some of them have popped. Keep an eye on them, you want some of them browned but not over-toasted. Once they’re done, pop them into a dish to cool.
- Next, wilt the nettle leaves. A pair of tongs (or scissors) comes in handy here. Add the washed leaves with a splash more water to the pan & stir them until they’ve all wilted & turned a darker green. You’ll probably need to do them in two batches.
- When they’re done, put them in a sieve & gently press with a spoon to remove excess moisture. Put the nettles with the seeds to cool down.
- When they’re cool, put all of the ingredients into a food processor & pulse them until they’ve come together into a thick, slightly lumpy paste. Taste it as you do it, so you know whether it needs more salt, cheese or lemon juice.
- Use immediately, stirred into cooked pasta, or keep it in an airtight jar in the fridge for a few days.