I know sometimes the pantry can start to look a bit bare in the lead up to shopping day, but have you ever thought to use the weeds in your garden?  Nettles (Urtica dioica) are a gardeners nemesis with their painful little spikes that can even manage to get through your gloves and pant legs, EVERY TIME.  But they’re also a handy to use as Food as Medicine.  Rich in iron, calcium, vitamin A and linoleic acid, nettles are a great way to add more nutrients to something as simple as pesto!  Nettles are also a great source of amino acids (all except leucine and lysine).

When nettle leaves and stems are crushed, the sting becomes inactivated, so there’s no risk of getting stung by your pasta sauce or party dip.  So, if you’ve got a great nettle patch, some sturdy gloves and an adventurous spirit, give this recipe a try.  It has a fresher and lighter flavour than a plain basil pesto.  I think you’ll love it!

Preparation time: 10mins



2 cups young nettles, roots removed

1 cup basil leaves

1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or minced

1/2 cup cashews (or pine nuts, sunflower seeds)

1/4 cup parmesan cheese 

1-2 tbsp olive oil

Salt + pepper to taste

  1. Thoroughly wash the nettles and basil (best way is in a colander or salad spinner to avoid touching the leaves).
  2. Place the nettles, basil, garlic, cashews and parmesan into a food processor and blend until combined.
  3. Whilst the machine is running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until it forms comes together – as smooth or as chunky as you like.
  4. Have a taste and season with salt and pepper.

Only use nettles that you have picked from a safe source, where you know that soil hasn’t been sprayed with chemicals (herbicides, fungicides, fertilisers, etc), and not from beside busy roads.

For a dairy free version, you can omit the parmesan or replace with nutritional yeast.

For a nut free version, swap for sunflower seeds.

If you don’t have access to nettle, you can swap for rocket leaves or any other herb you enjoy – parsley, coriander or mint work well.  Otherwise, you can just use basil for all your greenery.