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James Wong’s Nettle Pesto

James Wong’s Nettle Pesto, Lay The Table

I’ll start by declaring that I’m an ardent fan of ethnobotanist James Wong, his BBC series Grow Your Own Drugs and the accompanying book, which I bought before the TV series had even ended. His passion for plants is infectious, and his style of presenting natural and relaxed. In each programme, he shows people with various ailments how to make home-made natural remedies such as echinacea ice lollies for colds and flu, valerian hot chocolate for anxiety, hops pillow for insomnia and crystallised ginger for morning and travel sickness.

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Most of the ingredients (flowers, fruit, vegetables, roots, trees and herbs) can be found either in one’s garden, kitchen cupboard or growing in the wild, although some are a little trickier to source. He made the preparation of the remedies and beauty products (I like the sound of lavender bath bombs!) appear so easy that I decided to buy the book and make some things myself.

The hardback book is divided into three sections with an introduction on how to get started at home, the remedies (digestive disorders, skin complaints, kids, aches and pains, women’s stuff, under the weather, mind, face and body) and a substantial section on the top 100 medicinal plants, including marshmallow, feverfew and eyebright. The recipes for the remedies are clearly written and easy to understand and follow, with a short list of ingredients, followed by simple instructions.

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James Wong’s Nettle Pesto, Lay The Table

As I need to source ingredients such as glycerine, gelatine and beeswax before I can start making things, including organic rose beeswax lip balm, I thought I’d test out one of his few recipes for actual food! After tweeting about it for most of the day on Twitter, I finally got round to making nettle pesto, even though it did mean going out in the pouring rain to pick the tender nettle tips from our huge patch (wearing thick gardening gloves). When we re-do the garden, some of these prized weeds will be dug up, moved to a new position and lovingly pampered!

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Nettle Pesto (taken from the book Grow Your Own Drugs by James Wong)

‘…nettles (Urtica dioica) are packed with nourishing vitamins, minerals and chlorophyll, and help to build up natural immunity and protect from infections after a long winter’.

‘The young spring tips are the most tender, and tastiest. Just cook a big handful of the young nettle tips (about 150g) in boiling water for about 2 minutes. Drain, then drop into a blender along with some freshly grated Parmesan, 2 chopped garlic cloves, a handful of pine nuts and about 80ml olive oil. Whiz until smooth, then spoon over freshly cooked pasta and mix in well’.

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I didn’t follow the measurements precisely, but if you’ve made pesto before, it’s exactly the same, just using nettle tips instead of basil. The lovely vibrant colour was a pleasant surprise, as was the delicious flavour the nettles produced. I highly recommend making nettle pesto with your garden nettle tips! I’ll be using nettles a lot more from now on..(NB we’ve had this three times now, and are planning other dishes with nettles!)

Have a look at some of the Other Recipes on Lay The Table.

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@ Lay The Table

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