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Stinging Nettle Pesto Recipe

This pesto is a practice in making use of what is happily growing around us! Nettle is usually abundant and at its best during early spring, though we happen to have a patch that is still growing in to the Winter months. The trick to de-stinging this nutrient-dense, iron rich green is blanching it, boiling for a minute or so, and then immersing in ice water to halt the cooking process and preserve the beautiful green colour. The boiling water can then be used as tea or put in soup!


If you can’t find nettles, or are allergic, you can also make this pesto with Kawa Kawa leaves, Chickweed, Wild Garlic/Onion Grass, Miners Lettuce, or any combination of these. Since pinenuts are an imported product and generally quite pricey, we’ve opted for nutty, smooth sunflower seeds. Walnuts would be seasonally appropriate, and other options include almonds, pumpkin seeds or hemp seeds. Any hard cheese will work, or you can leave it out for a Vegan version. More or less olive oil can be used depending on what you are after, less for a spread and more for a sauce. Have a play with it and find your favourite version depending on the season and the meal!


  • About 4 packed cups fresh Nettle leaves and tender stems
  • 5 cloves of garlic (we like garlic! Less if you don’t…) roughly chopped
  • 1 shallot, or half a small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup Sunflower  Seeds, toasted
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, Grated
  • Juice of 1 Lemon (more if the pesto is too bitter for you)
  • Handful of parsley , roughly chopped
  • About 1 cup Olive Oil
  • Salt and pepper, chilli flakes if desired


  • Put a pot of water on and when it’s boiling dump the fresh nettles in for a minute or so.
  • Strain the nettles out and place in ice water. Let rest for a few minutes, then squeeze well to get as much water out as possible. Roughly chop the nettles and stems.
  • Toast Sunflower seeds on medium-high heat, stirring/tossing frequently to keep from burning.
  • To your food processor/blender/large mortar & pestle, add garlic, shallot, sunflower seeds, parmesan, lemon juice and cheese if you’re using it. Pulse first, then blend at medium or high speed
  • Add in chopped nettle and parsley little by little while blending constantly. Alternate with olive oil, streaming oil in slowly, not all at once. Blend until reaching desired consistency.
  • Season with salt, pepper. Add chilli flakes if desired. Add more lemon juice if the pesto is too bitter.
  • Allow to rest in fridge overnight if you like, allowing flavours to combine and mellow. Enjoy!




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