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Herbal Spotlight: Stinging Nettle Pesto
By Rachel Laase, Assistant Mini-Farm Manager at The Jeavons Center and Student Herbalist

Nettle Pesto
Stinging nettles make a tasty, nutritious pesto sauce.

With the changing of the season and the temperature starting to rise, our garden has been waking up, and the plants are starting to grow. One of my favorite herbs to harvest this time of year is Urtica dioica, more commonly known as Stinging Nettles. Though many gardeners stay away from this herb because of its stinging nature (which has its own benefits!), it is actually a very useful plant to have in your garden. It contains high amounts of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, and beta-carotene, along with vitamins A, C, D, and B complex, all in a form that is easy for the body to use. This nutrient-dense plant can be used to make tasty food and medicines that increase energy and nourish the hair, skin, digestive tract, liver, gallbladder, and prostate as well as aid the circulatory, lymphatic, and urinary systems.

Nettles prefer to grow in cool, moist conditions, so here on the mountain, we try to dry some of our harvest so we can still enjoy its benefits throughout the year when the plants die back as the summer heat comes. To harvest, clip the tops of the plant, cutting below the second or third branching. This is best done while wearing gloves to avoid being stung. Once nettles have been scalded with hot water, they lose their sting.

One of my favorite ways to enjoy this herb is incorporated into soups. Whether you are slow- cooking it into a spring tonic broth or making a simple cup of tea, this is a mild, yet tasty plant to have in the garden. Here is one of my favorite nettle recipes:

Nettle Pesto
4–6 cups packed nettle leaves
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
4 cloves garlic
1/2–2/3 cup olive oil
1/2–1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

How to make it:
1. Bring a pot of water to a boil; submerge the fresh nettles in the water for just one minute.
2. Strain well to get as much water out as possible. Add nettles to blender or food processor.
3. Add garlic, sunflower seeds, olive oil, and nutritional yeast.
4. Pulse until smooth and creamy, and salt to taste.
Serve over cooked pasta or spaghetti squash, and enjoy!

For more recipe ideas, visit Stinging Nettles: 8 Recipes for Spring at

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