We are no strangers to foraging and eating wild food, we have taken advantage of the ransoms (wild garlic) growing in the woods for many years now. Usually we just use them chopped up in pasta dishes or the kids quite like to just eat it raw in salads. April and May are the months when the wild garlic is in abundance, you'll smell it before you see it, it can be identified by its white star-shaped flowers. The flowers, leaves and shoots are all edible and have a strong, spring onion sort of taste.
We have also foraged for stinging nettles before, but have not yet used them in a dish. The humble stinging nettle is extremely good for you, they are a natural detoxifier, they have a very high vitamin C and iron content and they're also an anti-inflammatory. Good eh?!
Obviously nobody enjoys a nettle sting, although you can pick the nettles by just pulling your sleeves over your hands - you can actually eat them raw this way, if you roll the nettle leaves around whilst your sleeves are still covering your hands it removes the sting - but we would suggest wearing gardening gloves.
We decided that, with our foraged bounty, we were going to make a wild garlic and nettle pesto.
You will need:
A good bunch of nettles
A big bunch of wild garlic
Pine nuts (50 grams)
Hard cheese (Parmesan 50 grams)
Salt and pepper
Wash your wild garlic in the sink and remove the flower heads (you can still eat these in a salad).
Rinse off the nettles (wearing rubber gloves or use tongs) then crush the leaves in a bowl (we uses a rolling pin).
Toast half of the pine nuts in a frying pan, be careful not to burn them, I did a bit, but it all adds to the flavour, right?!
Grate the parmesan cheese, we used about 50 grams, but go by your taste.
We used a hand blitzer/blender, the type you use for soup, and blitzed the nettles with a glug of olive oil - the blending takes away the sting and releases the juices. Then the leaves of the wild garlic were added to the bowl and blitzed again to form a sort of paste like consistency.
Next add the toasted pine nuts and the cheese. and a little more oil. Have a little taste along the way and add what you feel is needed, we added a pinch of salt and black pepper. Lemon juice is also suggested but we didn't have any. Carry on blending all the ingredients together.
To finish you can add the rest of the untoasted pine nuts and give it a quick blitz, this just adds a bit of crunch.
The finished pesto has a lovely earthy sort of flavour. Transfer the pesto to a sterilised jar and pour some more olive oil over the top.
We are going to have it with some bread, along with our pasta and meatballs tonight.