Fresh Nettle Pesto


Fresh nettles are fantastic. Around here, they are the first green plant to spring up in the brown end of winter. So, people here go crazy for them. Nettles are full of vitamins and the nutrients we need after the long winter. Clearly, we should be eating them. 

But I have to tell you — before this spring, I wasn’t really eating nettles. Why? Well, when I first started encountering nettles, back at a restaurant in Seattle called Cassis, where I was the sous chef in 2002, I got stung by them repeatedly in prepping them. 

Part of ADHD is having sensory overload sometimes. Getting stung so often made me cautious. One chef I worked with cooked the crap out of nettles, so they looked slimy and like…something unappealing. After that year, I stopped eating nettles. 

When I noticed that my daughter and son seem to have similar sensory issues, I decided I wanted to work on mine. I mean, nettles are abundant. They grow in our yard. And for pete’s sake, it was time to give them a whirl. 

I cheated a little bit by buying already-picked nettles at the farmers’ market. 

You probably won’t be shocked to find out I loved this nettle pesto. 

Part of the reason I loved it so much is that I made it in the mortar and pestle. All my career, I have made pestos in a food processor. (Of course, since I’m a chef, I call it a Robot-Coupe.) It’s fast and convenient to make it that way. But I’m always going too fast. Since I have been home from restaurants, trying to slow down, making pesto with the mortar and pestle gave me a chance to appreciate what is happening as I made it. 

The final pesto came out awesome. A lot of times, if you make a green pesto, you beat it too much in the food processor. It goes brown really fast. And there can be inconsistencies that run amok: big chunks in some parts, liquid in others. This handmade pesto, the presentation, the way it tasted? It was so much better than if I had grabbed everything, threw it in the robot coupe, and went on my way. I enjoyed the process. I enjoyed the final pesto. 

And now I want to share it with you.

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