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Foraged Nettle Pesto with Dandelion Greens

Originally published on March, 17th 2022. Last updated on March 22nd, 2022 Skip to Recipe

Every year we create a ritual of making spring foraged nettle pesto with the abundance given to us by Mother Earth. After a long cold winter, we look forward to the new greens. Slowly stretching out from the ground, waking us up, and letting us know spring has arrived. Foraging and gathering the greens for the nettle pesto is a sweet time to connect with the Earth. A time to let go of what is no longer serving us and a time to welcome the rhythms within our own bodies and nourish them.

Spring, a time of nourishment

Spring is the ideal time to follow nature’s path by consuming and integrating the greens into our meals. It is said that spring is when we should gently cleanse and fertilize our bodies with the deep green nourishment that we are gifted. Every plant has some magic that we can use to nourish ourselves. Even plants like stinging nettle and dandelion, which are generally considered to be a nuisance or a weed, can nourish our bodies. They also add a little bit of spice to a delicious pesto.

The only time you have to worry about the stinging aspect of the pesto is when you are harvesting, and processing. Make sure to wear gloves and don’t get the nettles on your skin. They will sting! When you get home cut the nettle leaves off the stem (wear gloves to avoid getting stung!). Rinse the leaves under very HOT water to blanche the nettle leaves, and deactivate the sting.

Beautiful wild dandelion greens

Pesto recipe without pine nuts

Pesto is traditionally made with basil, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese. While delicious, the traditional recipe may not suit everyone. This spring nettle pesto recipe is made with dandelion greens which support the liver in cleansing, and stinging nettles which are deeply mineral-rich. And don’t worry, through the processing there are no “stinging” qualities. Then nettles are just another mineral-rich, delicious ingredient that is very abundant during spring.

Instead of pine nuts, we will use pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds. Whichever you have on hand is fine. My personal preference is pumpkin seeds since they are high in iron and have a subtle flavor profile that blends well with the wild spring weeds we are using. Another great option is to use hemp seeds! With this foraged nettle pesto recipe, you will get the same delicious spice and texture as traditional pesto. You will also get the satisfaction of foraging and using the abundance provided by mother Earth.

Optional greens

This recipe is designed to be expanded upon easily. Some other abundant greens that you could add and easily forage for are:

  • Dandelion Greens – Add in an earthy, bitter taste therefore I recommend adding in other greens to balance out the bitterness.
  • Stinging Nettles – Adds in a spinach and arugula like taste, without the full body taste of iron. Bonus, it is packed with vitamins & nutrients!
  • Nasturtiums – Add a little bit of a peppery taste to the pesto (I’ve definitely tried this, click here for recipe).
  • Chickweed – A tender and very tasty green, with a crisp texture, with a subtle sweet flavor.
  • Broadleaf Plantain – The young leaves are tender, and succulant, and will add in a huge nutrional value to your pesto.
  • Mustard Greens – Will add a peppery, pungant, with a hint of bitter taste into your pesto.
  • Lamb’s Quarters – For a delicious taste and mineral rich addition!

Really any other nutrient-dense green would contribute to the magic of the pesto. Springtime is a great time to forage for these greens since they are abundant and easy to find.

Harvested dandelion greens and nettles
Dandelion greens and stinging nettles, freshly foraged.
Drying out the stinging nettles after being washed. Always wash your foraged greens!
The fresh foraged greens in the blender about ready to be mixed into delicious pesto!
After mixing, we have a vibrant, nutrient dense delicious pesto we can use in oh so many recipes.

Save some nettle pesto for later

Every spring and summer when I make this foraged nettle pesto, I make sure to prepare large batches to freeze and reuse throughout the year. That way the time and labor spent foraging lasts longer and you can enjoy the abundance throughout the year. I also find that the frozen foraged pesto comes in handy in a pinch. For example, when you are returning from a long trip, or just running out of time for a home-cooked meal. You can reach into the freezer and quickly add to make a meal.

There are a few tips when saving your pesto for later. First, I’d recommend only using a glass mason jar or a stronger glass that won’t crack easily. Second, I’d recommend leaving 1-2 inches of space on top of the jar when you add the pesto to the jar. Leaving that extra space will allow the water in the pesto to expand without cracking the jar.

One batch of pesto, so many uses

We love this nettle pesto recipe and use it in so many places. The hint of garlic and greens can really spice up any dish and extra vitamins, nutrients, and minerals your body craves. Here are a few of our favorite uses for this foraged nettle pesto:

  • Mix in with scramble eggs or an omelet
  • Blend the pesto into an egg bake
  • Spread a thin layer on some avocado toast
  • Add the pesto to your favorite sandwich
  • Enjoy the pesto as a dip with freshly cut vegetables
  • Use the pesto as a sauce to cook your protein or choice
  • Mix in the pesto with pasta

Those are just a few of our favorite ways we use this nettle pesto throughout the year. I’d love to hear your thoughts and how you use the pesto. Definitely reach out below, or on Instagram (@mytinylagunakitchen). Enjoy being in mother nature and don’t forget to thank Mother Earth for her abundance!

Freshly canned wild weeds nettle pesto
Highlights the green in the wild weeds nettle pesto
Foraged Nettle Pesto with Dandelion Greens

Foraged Nettle Pesto with Dandelion Greens

Yield: 32 ounces
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Springtime is meant for nourishing our bodies with the lovely abundance from Mother Earth. This nettle pesto with dandelion greens uses some plants, which are considered weeds for a nourishing, delicious pesto you can enjoy year-round!

Ingredients

  • 1 large bundle of dandelion greens 
  • 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1 large bundle of stinging nettle
  • 3-6 cloves of peeled garlic 
  • 1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon of capers
  • 1/2 of a jalapeño (optional)  
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt 
  • 1-2 lemons to juice
  • 1/3 cup of grated parmesan cheese (optional) 

Instructions

  1. Carefully cut the nettle leaves off the stem, (use gloves to avoid getting stung). Rinse the leaves under HOT running water to blanche the nettles leaves take out the sting.
  2. Using a high-speed blender or food processor, add in your greens, olive oil, lemon, garlic, capers, jalapeno, salt, and the remaining ingredients.
  3. Blend until well mixed, add more olive oil if you prefer a smooth consistency versus a thicker texture.
  4. Store the pesto into an air-tight container, such as a glass mason jar.
  5. The pesto keeps in the fridge for a week or so, and the freezer for 4-6 months.
  6. Enjoy!

Notes

  1. If you are dairy-free you can skip the parmesan and add in nutritional yeast.
  2. If you are sensitive to spice, feel free to omit the jalapeño.

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