Stinging nettles really do sting. They pop up in the spring like forest weeds with tiny hooked daggers. Handle them with gloves and the minute you drop them in boiling water or a food processor, their barbs will soften and bend, easily defeating those antagonistic weapons. These green leafy devils are the new kale of super foods. They pack a punch at 24% protein (more than beans) and calcium (29 times more than spinach). One cup of nettles provides 42% of the daily required calcium (120 mg more than a cup of milk.) For women counting their calcium intake at 1000-1200 mg per day, it adds up quickly! Not to mention, their mineral content is off the charts compared with kale and spinach. So the next time you’re going to cook with those other greens, try substituting with nettle for a tasty change. I promise to forage firsthand in the spring and share the bounty with you here. In the interim, I found stinging nettles at one SF Bay Area organic farm in Watsonville by the name of Happy Boy (delivered via Good Eggs delivery service.) Here’s a quick and nourishing recipe for a yummy stinging nettles pesto, but for Pete’s sake, let’s call them by a gentler name – Nettles Pesto – even the kids will be happy to eat this one with their noodles.
2 cups stinging nettles leaves, packed
1 cup basil leaves, packed
3 TBSPs lemon juice
3 TBSPs olive oil
1-2 medium cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
Place nettle leaves, basil, lemon juice, olive oil and garlic in a food processor. Pulse ingredients until almost smooth (adding more olive oil as needed.) Serve with spinach or fresh nettle pappardelle and top with parmesan if desired. Equally yummy served on sliced cucumbers or yellow peppers.