Updated: Feb 27
There's nothing more satisfying than foraging for your own food. It has so many benefits. From to connecting with nature and the seasons to saving money, you can feel at one with your natural environment even in a big city- all of the forged ingredients in these pictures were picked in a nature reserve in London.
So to make this pesto, we are going to use stinging nettle, jack by the hedge and dandelion leaves.
Stinging nettles are abundant in many places as well as dandelions. They are packed full of nutritional goodness, nature's super food right all around us! Jack by the hedge is not as common, but easier to find in some places than wild garlic.
Always make sure you forage in a safe way. Please see my other post on safe tips for foraging. Nettles should only be picked before they flower as it can give you an upset stomach. This is in springtime or later in the year in autumn if they have been cut and you get a second growth.
Here is a complete list of the ingredients. You will notice there is some flexibility in the amounts used. I ran this as workshop for a Women's institute this week and it was amazing how all four groups made a delicious pesto but they were all slightly different. This allows you to make a pesto for your own personal tastes. One group made a dairy free version with more lemon juice and more olive oil. It was amazing how creamy and delicious it was. So start experimenting!
A shopping bag full of stinging nettles- Use thick garden gloves to avoid being stung
A small handful of jack by the hedge and dandelion leaves (Optional)
½ to 1 cup Parmesan (you can leave this out if you prefer a diary free version and add extra lemon and olive oil)
½ to 1 cup walnuts (You could also use seeds in case of nut allergy)
3 garlic cloves, peeled
juice of 1 - 2 lemons
½ teaspoon salt
a few turns of the pepper mill
½ cup olive oil
1.) Forage for your wild greens such as stinging nettles (and dandelion leaves and jack by the hedge if you are using them too.) Insects love stinging nettles. Different patches of them will have varying degrees of bugs on them. Try and find a patch with less as it will be easier to clean them later on.
2.) Wash the nettles well to get rid of the small bugs on them. I soak them in a bowl, then change the water a few times, agitating it with my hand (Use gloves for this stage! Nettles will sting you until they have been crushed or boiled).
. 2 .) Drop the nettles into a large pot of boiling salted water. After placing the nettles in the boiling water wait for it to boil again and leave to boil for a few minutes. With a slotted spoon, move them into an ice water bath to shock and cool.
3.) Grab handfuls of the cooled nettles and squeeze out all the liquid out of the nettles until you are left with small balls of the nettles.
4.) Place the nettles, jack by the hedge and dandelion leaves into your food processor along with parmesan, walnuts, garlic cloves, lemon juice, salt, freshly ground black pepper and olive oil. I would suggest adding the smaller amount of each ingredient and build up to make a pesto to your own personal preference. Process to the desired consistency. If things aren’t moving around in there like they should, add a bit more oil. Continue to refine the pesto to your taste adding more of any ingredients you choose.
5.) Put the pesto into sterilised jars or in containers to freeze. Top with a layer of olive oil .
6.) Enjoy your creation. It's wonderful on pasta or fresh bread!
If you would like to learn more about foraging, why not book a 1:1 course or with a groups of friends? You could even make your own pesto together over the fire! Please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
* Please note, this article should not be used as a sole way of identifying these plants. Please use a range of identification methods to safely identify all of the plants mentioned