Savoring the Seasons: Locally grown nettles work perfectly in pesto

  • Fresh nettles from Ostara Luna Farm in Ashfield. Love pesto? Try the recipe in today’s column for a tasty nettle pesto. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/Grover Wehman-Brown

  • Pesto works great as the base of the salty and tangy pizza. TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE

Published: 5/23/2017 9:28:03 AM

I love receiving recipes and local food info from friends and readers. Recently, I’ve heard about violets and nettles.

Thanks to Barbara Williams from Sunderland who shared her advice for enjoying violets. She said, “I have been making violet jelly for years, although not every year, just when I happen to find the time. I found this recipe in Euell Gibbons’ book ‘Stalking the Healthful Herbs’ several years ago. It’s very simple. Infuse about 1 C. of packed violet blossoms in about 2 C. hot water. Drain and add juice of 1 lemon and 1 package of commercial powdered pectin. Bring this to a boil and add 4 C. of sugar. Bring back to a boil and boil hard one minute, then pour into jars and seal. I process mine briefly in a hot water bath though Euell didn’t mention that. But as he said, ‘there is no more beautiful jelly in existence.’”

That sounds tasty and lovely!

Another flavorful wild food is nettles. Friends of mine gave me some fabulous advice on how to harvest nettles and some truly tasty recipes.

Here’s Marie Summerwood’s sting-proof method for harvesting nettles.

“Wear gloves to avoid the sting. Take a large bag with you and attach it to your belt to free your hands. With a pair of scissors, and holding the tip of a leaf with one hand, clip about 4 inches down. Fill your bag. Go home. In a large pot, bring 1-2 inches of water to boil. Put fresh greens into the water. Stir to mix leaves down. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. You can eat them just like this; the broth is so good, greens are yummy. Sting is gone! One caution: in most places, it is still early enough that the nettles won’t be flowering, but if they are flowering, the flowers sprout from the plant’s armpits — its axilla. The flowers are tiny, brownish green, and have no petals. When they start flowering, you should no longer eat the greens.”

Thanks, Marie!

My Conway friend and neighbor, Beth Girshman, told me about a workshop she took from Hannah Jacobson-Hardy of Sweet Birch Herbals at Full Kettle Farm in Sunderland. Beth said it’s easy to make nettle vinegar: chop tops of nettles, put them in a mason jar, fill with apple cider vinegar, cover, and store in a dark place for four weeks. The nettle vinegar is great for making salad dressing that is tasty and full of calcium and other minerals.

Two new just-up-the-road friends of mine are Nova and Grover Wehman-Brown who recently started Ostara Luna Farm in South Ashfield. Nettles are an early crop they’ve harvested from their land and are selling at the Ashfield Farmers Market. When I roamed the farm with Grover, we chatted about many ways to enjoy nettles. Of course, I asked for a recipe! They provided their simply superb recipe for nettle pesto. To learn more about their farm, visit: www.ostaraluna.com.

How do you enjoy nettles?

This Week We’re Eating ...

Nettle pesto: By Nova and Grover Wehman-Brown, Ostara Luna Farm, Ashfield

Tools:

Tongs, mixing bowl, sauce pan for boiling water, blender or food processor or immersion blender

Ingredients:

¼ lb. fresh stinging nettle leaf (prepped — see below)

½ C. olive oil (or more to taste)

1 small clove fresh garlic (peeled)

¼ C. toasted pecans or almonds

¼ C. grated Parmesan (optional)

Salt and lemon squeeze to taste

Directions:

Using tongs, put nettle leaves into large mixing bowl or sink filled with cold water, then let all of the debris fall to the bottom and lift leaves out with tongs.

Boil salted water, then blanch leaves by dropping leaves into boiling water, swishing them around and then pulling them out again with tongs. Pat dry with a clean kitchen towel. Put nettles, garlic, and nuts in food processor or blender. While blending, slowly pour olive oil in until it reaches your desired consistency.

Scoop pesto into serve bowl and fold in cheese, if using. Salt and lemon to taste. Toss onto pasta, vegetables, pizza, or grain salads. Enjoy!

Local food advocate and
community organizer
Mary McClintock lives in Conway and works as a
freelance writer, editor, and book indexer. Send column suggestions and recipes to: mmcclinto@yahoo.com.


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