Thank heavens for Instagram. I find it a constant source of travel inspiration, and because my feed these days is leaning more and more bush-babe, DIY inspiration too. So when I saw a friend foraging for nettles, I knew I had to try.
Turns out that forage would be easier than most, as my mom confessed she’d discovered a huge patch in the backyard of her cabin.
Armed with the internet, a coastal foraging guide and rubber gloves, I went to investigate. Thankfully nettles are obvious enough you don’t need to deal with the sting to be sure – just look for big patches of bright green plants, shooting upright to 3 metres tall, with 5-15mm long heart-shaped, coarsely saw-toothed leaves in pairs opposite each other. The stinging hairs are obvious on the underneath of the leaves and along the stems.
I pulled on my rubber boots and latex gloves over jeans and a long-sleeved jacket, and went to work. You can use the entirety of young plants, but I focused my energies on the leaves. Armed with kitchen scissors, it took 15 minutes to stuff a big stock pot.
When using nettles, boil them for 2 minutes to get rid of the sting. From there you can use them as even more nutritionally dense version of spinach in pastas or sag paneers, or turn them into pesto, like I did.
- A big stockpot full of compressed nettles (6-8 cups)
- 8 cloves of garlic
- 1.5 cups of pine nuts
- The juice of two lemons
- 2 cups of parmesan cheese
- 1/4-1/3 cup of olive oil
- Salt to taste
- A splash of white wine vinegar
- Boil the nettles for 1-2 minutes (use tongs to transfer them into the pot)
- Drain and squeeze out excess water
- Transfer to food processor and pulse with all other ingredients until desired consistency
The moment I made it, we smeared the pesto onto crackers and ate them overlooking the water. On the second day, I cooked up some pesto pasta. (Cook dried pasta until al dente, drain, preserving half a cup of the pasta water, mix the water with pesto until emulsified, add pasta and mix well.) Both treatment were divine. Next endeavour: a very West Coast spring update on sag paneer.