Going on the hunt for Wild Stinging Nettle (and a Pesto recipe too!)

Spring time in Vancouver has been taking is sweet time to show itself, but this past weekend was beautifully sunny and warm. What better time that going on a hunt for wild nettles!

Wild Stinging Nettle in Vancouver

Wild Stinging Nettle in Vancouver

Why stinging nettles?

Stinging nettle definitely lives up to its name – it will sting like crazy if you brush up against it or handle the plants without wearing gloves.  But this plant is highly nutritious and available for wild harvesting during early spring.

When you cook or dry your nettles, they  will lose their stinging properties, making them safe to eat. You can steam, sauté, or boil them and enjoy with a meal or in soups. You can also make a nutritive tea with the leaves, sweetening with honey and lemon. Nettles can be used in any dish you would normally use greens like spinach or swiss chard. Nettle Spanakopita anyone?!

Stinging nettles are packed with nutrients. They are high in Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and full of calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium. A great source of fibre, chlorophyll and protein. They also have cleansing properties for your kidneys and liver.

And they are FREE if you pick them wild!! Bonus! Just make sure you're not picking on someones property. To find good patches of Nettle or other wild foraging plants - check out the Urban Edibles Map 

Finding and harvesting stinging nettles

Nettles will begin popping up in early spring. It likes to grow in sunny places where there the soil is rich and moist. You’ll find them growing along rivers, streams, lakes, ditches, fencerows, and on the edges of cultivated farm fields. 

Stinging nettle will grow in clusters, and stalks can reach 5-8 feet at maturity. Leaves are about 2-5 inches (or 10-25 cm) long with jagged edges. They grow in opposing pairs along the upper half of the stalk. Leaves are pointed at the tips, with a heart-shaped base and indented veins. The plant will have small “hairs” up the stalk and stems. (This is where the sting comes from...so watch out!) 


The best time to harvest nettles is the first few weeks after they come up in the spring, before they grow to be a foot tall. Wearing gloves is essential when picking nettle to avoid being stung. Using scissors or a knife, pick the first two or three pairs of leaves from the tops of plant.

Stinging Nettle Pesto


  • 2 cups stinging nettle
  • 2 cups parsley
  • 1/4 cup grated finely parmesan cheese
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • Juice of one lemon or 1 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar 
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Bring a pot of water to the boil, then drop in the nettles and cook for 2 mins. Drain and run under cold water, then squeeze out as much water as possible. **use tongs or gloves when handling the uncooked nettles to avoid being stung**

  2. Put the prepared nettles in a food processor, along with the Parmesan, garlic, lemon juice and nuts.

  3. Whiz up in your food processor until it forms a rough paste. Season with salt and pepper, and with the motor running slowly add the olive oil.

  4. Taste, season if you need to adjust . Transfer the pesto to a clean jar and top with the remaining oil. Will keep for two weeks in the fridge.