The winter CSA share I signed up for through Greensgrow Farms had its last pick-up this past Saturday. While the slog through the winter was a bit tough, I must admit, the last pick-up showed signs of spring: asparagus! dandelion greens! stinging nettles!?
Stinging nettles, if you have never encountered them, sting you when your skin comes in contact with them. You don't want to run into them in the wild or pick them up at the farm stand with your bare hands. The nettles have little hairs all over the stems. Some of the hairs contain chemicals, such as formic acid, which cause excruciating pain when you touch them.
But, I don't have first hand experience with this. The nettles I got in the CSA came in a plastic bag with the instructions to dump the nettles directly from the bag into a pot of boiling water, which I did. The nettles only need about a minute in the boiling water to denature the stinginess. After that, you can touch them without fear.
I then poked around the interwebs, looking for something to do with the nettles. I'm a bit of a leafy greenaphobe, though I know I shouldn't be. Spinach, quite honestly, terrifies me. Collards do a bit as well. So I have to admit that the idea of eating nettles was a little frightening. It also did not sit well with my partner, who flat out refused to eat them (more on that later). I wanted a recipe that would let me enjoy the green nettles without gagging on them.
Then, I found this recipe for pesto over on a blog called Hogwash. I like pesto. It makes frightening green things less frightening. So I tried it, with farafelle pasta.
And it was pretty good. Considerably more mild in flavor than basil pesto or a kale pesto I've made before. The best part of it: I told my partner we were having pesto for dinner. And he ate it without a comment. I don't think he knows the green part of it was nettles. So, let that be a lesson, people. The best way to hide veggies is in pesto.