We are several weeks into our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) session for this year.  Among the vegetables, relishes and grains received so far, there have been a few surprises.  The pickled green strawberries were tasty despite their chewy texture, but first on my list of the head scratchers has to be the stinging nettle. 

Also known as urtica dioica, the common nettle is a perennial flowering plant with stinging hairs on the leaves and stems.  These trichomes inject histamine and other chemicals into the skin producing a stinging sensation and often a raised rash.  Despite this, the plant has a long history of medicinal uses and as a food source.

My bag of stinging nettle came with a warning label and a recipe for Stinging Nettle Pesto.  After checking the internet I learned there were indeed people who ate stinging nettle for cooking destroys the unpleasant properties.  As no recent news reports of death due to the ingestion of stinging nettle came to mind, I was game. 

Here is the recipe provided by my CSA.  While cooking the nettles neutralizes the sting, the hairs are still visible.  This can be a tad alarming.  I blanched longer than the 10 seconds stated just to be sure.

   Stinging Nettle Pesto

   1/3 C pistachios, toasted
   1 tsp salt
   1/4 tsp black pepper
   1 C spinach leaves or basil leaves
   2 C stinging nettle leaves, blanched and squeezed dry
   1 1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
   6-8 cloves garlic, chopped
   1/2 C grated pecorino (optional)

  1.    To blanch the stinging nettle leaves,
       bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.
  2.    Wear gloves when handling the raw leaves and prepare an ice bath.
  3.    Cook the leaves for 10 seconds then shock the leaves in an ice bath.
  4.    Strain the leaves and squeeze dry.
  5.    Place all ingredients (except the olive oil) in the work bowl
       of a food processor.
  6.    Pulverize the items then slowly drizzle in the olive oil.

After following the recipe directions (with just a few substitutions), I am happy to report that stinging nettle can indeed be a tasty meal.

Bon Appetite!

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