Reprinted from Lucid Food: Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life by Louisa Shafia. Copyright © 2009 Published by Ten Speed Press.

Nettles — weeds that grow throughout the United States — are like something out of a scary children’s story. Their leaves are serrated like teeth and they’re covered with spiky hairs that sting on contact. But the sting is fleeting, and the antidote is the juice of the nettles’ own leaves. Boiled briefly, nettles turn into a rich green vegetable much like spinach. You can drink the nutrient-rich cooking water like tea, just leave out the salt. Toss pesto with pasta, spread on seared fish or chicken, or use as a dip for raw vegetables.

Makes approximately 3 cups


  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/4 pound stinging nettles

  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 1/3 cup olive oil

  • 1/4 cup firmly packed grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese


Fill a large pot halfway full with water. Add 1/4 cup salt and bring to a boil.

Fill the sink or a large bowl with cold water. Using gloves or tongs, submerge the nettles in the water and let them sit for 5 minutes. Remove the nettles and discard the water. Wearing rubber gloves, pull the leaves from the stems and discard the stems.

Put the nettles in the boiling water and boil for 1 minute. Drain and spread the nettles on a baking sheet. Let cool completely. Squeeze out as much of the water as possible and coarsely chop.

Place the nettles in the bowl of a food processor with the mint, garlic, pine nuts, and 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice. Process until the mixture has formed a paste.

With the machine running, pour in the olive oil. Transfer to a bowl and fold in the cheese. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Louisa Shafia develops recipes, teaches cooking classes, makes cooking videos and writes cookbooks. Her first cookbook, Lucid Food: Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life, was nominated for best book of the year by the IACP in the Health and Special Diet category. She is the author of the blog Lucid Food.