in pursuit of more

living with just a little less

Spring Nettle Pesto with Roasted Yams

It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart. Unknown

It’s safe to say it’s just about Springtime here in the west. The birds are singing their songs, the days are stretching out before us with natural ease, and everything seems to be waking up from a long deep sleep. Everything seems (just a little) lighter, and anything that doesn’t feel light suddenly feels, well, heavy and burdensome. So I’m ready. So ready! Ready for flowers, and ready for outside time. Ready for lighter foods, and long walks in the sunshine. Aaaaaaah. Soon.

Today’s recipe reminds me of this time when I was young, growing up just a few minutes walk from a deep lush forest. My mom picked nettles every spring and sometimes would take me. Yes, those same nettles you may have heard of that grow on the forest floor and sting when you touch them. They are free, they are wild, and they are very nutritious – full of iron and chlorophyll to start! You might be thinking ‘what the heck is she talking about here?’ but rest assured I am not off on a crazy tangent…nettles are pretty interesting and have been around for a very long time.

You might not find them in your local grocer, but have a peek around through any foraging resource and you’ll be able to find info on them. It’s amazing what the earth provides if we only know what to look for! They are called ‘stinging’ nettles and are found wild all over the world – read here for a little bit of quick info….hint: my mom and I never ventured into the woods without yellow rubber gloves as these guys aren’t called stinging nettles for no reason! Of course, if you can’t find nettles where you are, this simple pesto can easily be made with lightly steamed spinach or kale too. I just happened upon a bag of these in my CSA bag last week and couldn’t help myself from making this pesto (I adapted a recipe given with the bag of nettles) – it had been probably 25 years since I’d had them! It was amazing with this fun and sophisticated take on yams – here topped with a cube of feta but you could do worse than throw a few roasted chickpeas on top or roasted cherry tomatoes if you are vegan or avoiding dairy. You could even top a steamed veggie bowl or brown rice with this. Perfect, easy protein.

Spring Nettle Pesto:

(1) packed cup cooked fresh stinging nettles (about 3 cups uncooked)*
(1/2) cup fresh parsley
(20) toasted whole hazelnuts
(1/2) shallot, raw
(2) tbsp olive oil
(1) tsp salt
(1/4) cup fresh lemon juice
(1/4) cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

*Feel free to sub in an equal amount of lightly steamed kale or a mix of spinach and kale for the nettles – the result will be similar just watch the water content on the spinach. If you like, use this idea with Broccoli Pesto as well.

Start by rinsing the nettles under some fresh water – being careful not to handle them with bare hands! I received them in a wrapped plastic bag and dropped them into the veggie steamer. Steam them for 4-5 minutes until wilting them – at this point, they are safe to touch with your hands. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Transfer to a clean jar or container and refrigerate until ready for use.

Roasted Yams:

(1) large orange yam, washed
(2-3) tbsp olive oil

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash and slice the yam into half-inch rounds and oil a flat baking tray with the olive oil, spreading it around well. Place the yam slices on the oiled tray and rub each side with olive oil (use your hands) before placing in the oven to bake. Cook for 15 minutes on one side until nicely browned. Turn over and cook on the other side for 5 more minutes or so until perfectly cooked and brown on both sides. remove from the oven and allow to cool. This is also a great time toast the hazelnuts for the pesto while the oven is on. It’s great to make the pesto while the yams cook and while the nuts are still warm (this facilitates good blending). About 8-10 minutes will be perfect.

To serve, arrange the cooled (or still just warm) yam slices on a plate and top with a spoonful or two of the fresh green pesto. As I mentioned before, this was delicious topped with a cube of fresh goat feta, however, for vegans I can easily picture a beautiful selection of roasted cherry tomatoes or roasted & spiced chickpeas to top this lovely little side or appetizer. Sprinkled with a handful or two of fresh micro-greens or sprouts and you are set.


33 responses to “Spring Nettle Pesto with Roasted Yams

  1. It seems so counter-intuitive that you could eat something that would sting your hands if you touched it raw! I love all your takes on pesto, while I’m pretty sure it would be difficult for me to find stinging nettle in suburbia, I do love a good spinach or kale pesto, so I’d love to try this! xx

    1. I know right? So crazy that they hurt (see Kristy’s comment below – yuck!) — I’d love to try kale pesto on these yams – would be crazy good! xo

  2. I was stung pretty badly by nettles when I was a kid (I jumped into a big pile of it, hands and knees first. And I was wearing shorts.) so I have a little mental block against cooking with it. I think it’s high time I get over that and give this pesto a try! It looks divine on those roasted yams! 🙂

    1. Oh Kristy that sounds terrible! Nothing worse than a sting and can not imagine two whole legs of sting – I don’t blame you for a second! How did you calm it down?
      Thanks lovely! xo

  3. I’ll have to have Kel find out if we can buy stinging nettle seeds – add it to his long list of greens we have to try and grow. Beautiful combination, Shira.

    1. Hooray for nettles! Gorgeous photos and recipe, Shira.

      Annie, it’s my understanding from our local farmers (I’m in the Pacific Northwest) that it grows best wild in the forest and doesn’t respond well if you try and propagate. If you have a forested area near you I wonder if you could plant some cuttings and encourage it to grow that way? Hope you’re able to find some – such good stuff.

      1. Jenni! I remember one of your recipes from last year – was it a pesto too? Totally brought me back then too 🙂 Missing your fabulous blog – I am coming over for a visit soon! xo

  4. Fantastic!!! I love this combination and I could bite into one of those right this minute – so beautiful!!
    I know what I’ll be looking for on my next hike 🙂
    Thanks Shira! XXX

  5. I have been waiting for nettle season! I made nettle spanikopita – much more delicious than the traditional with spinach! Also nettle quiche…

    I just have to find them in my area now…

    1. Girlfriend! Where the heck are you! I wish you were in Vancity where they are readily available – LOVE the idea of spanakopita! YUM!

  6. I have no idea where I might purchase nettles, though I think my best chances will be at the farmers markets when they re-open in late April. I hope they do. This dish looks and sounds delicious, Shira.

  7. Pesto on top of roasted sweet potatoes sounds life perfection- 2 of my favourite things joined into something even better! I’ve never had nettles, but I like the sound of those nutritional stats! I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled!

    Hope you’re having a lovely weekend Shira!

    1. Thanks Gabby! You’d love nettles – they are green and oh so healthy – perfect for blending or just steaming and eating as is 🙂

  8. spring nettles are so lovely! i think i spotted a few heart shaped leaves in your photos!

    i am so excited for spring. finally the temperature has hit the 50s and i feel like i’ve never been happier. this dish looks light and perfect for the warm weather. i love pesto and sweet potatoes, but have yet to try them together. time to experiment 😉

    1. Those are heart leaves in there Caitlin! Great eye — these were the lovliest little microgreens I received in my CSA box – so pretty aren’t they? Happy Spring where you are!! xo

  9. Nettles! I have seen these dried and I always assumed dried nettles are used for tea but I have never come across fresh nettles- I am going to have to ask around at the Winter Farmers Market to see if I can source some – I love the way you served the pesto atop the sweet potato- such a beautiful dish Shira!

    1. Thanks Heather! I think you’d really like them and I’d love to hear if your nettle hunt is successful! Do keep us posted! xo

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