Nettle + Wild Garlic Pesto

Springtime Recipes

Helps nourish blood and support the liver.

 “In Taditional Chinese Medicine, spring is a time for embracing new life, new directions and watching those seedlings of ideas burst in to fruition.”

Nettles have a long history of medicinal use. Victorian women used nettle tinctures to thicken their hair whilst they were used in soups to build strength, stamina and vitality.

The ancient safe of Tibet, Milarepa, even fasted on nettles until his skin turned a light green hugh (not recommended 😉 ). After which he reportedly developed legendary psychic and physical powers.

Nettles are hardy and come into abundance in the wild during Springtime. They can be harvested fresh through gentle foraging and to dried for later use.

All parts of the nettle plant have medicinal properties making these plants a pretty magical supplement to meals, during the Spring.

Nutritionally, 1 cup of stewed or blanched nettles has a mere 36 calories, 6.5 g of carbs, 2.5 g of protein and no fat.

It’s the mineral profile that make nettles magical. They are an excellent source of iron, calcium, vitamin D and vitamin A. Nearly three times the daily RDA of vitamin A can be found in 1 cup of nettles and they are fantastic source of Vitamin K which is essential for blood clotting, bone health and calcium absorption.

Below, I delve into the benefits from a Chinese Medicine perspective and common ailments that they can aid with when used nutritionally or as a tonic or tea.

Plus, I will be offering my favourite Nettle recipe, “Wild Garlic and Nettle Pesto”, below.

This is a great exucse to get outdoors and forage your own food.

Nettles in Chinese Medicine

The primary function of Nettles in Traditional Chinese Medicine is that they help build Blood + Yin.

Blood is more than just the iron rich fluid that runs through out veins. We consider it to nourish all tissues of the body, it anchors the Shen (our mind or spirit) and allows for a regular menstrual flow in women.

When depeleted, we mind find that we have very dry skin, gritty eyes, difficulty seeing in the dark, scanty periods, dizziness, low blood pressure, anxiety or insomnia.

Yin is Yangs cooling, calming, moistening counterpart. It is what we would consider the Moon to the Sun, or the feminine to the masculine.

When Yin are depleted we will see symptoms like hot flushes, night sweats, dry skin, dull hair, anxiety, vivid dreams and brittle nails.

The nutritional and energetic nature of nettles also helps to support the Liver. In 5 Element Theory, the Liver is related to Wood Energy and that is in the season of Spring! This is why we place so much importance on eating seasonally as we are supporting our organ systems relating to that particular season.

Spring is a time for growth and development but with that comes a massive cleanse from the stagnant toxins that we have accumulated over the winter months. The Liver is one of the primary organs aiding in our detoxification and cleansing pathway, and nettles help support this function.


Nettles can be cooked and eaten in a number of different ways. Lightly steaming them will remove their stinging properties or they can be blended raw, as in this recipe below. You can dehydrate and dry them for future use too, simply adding them to stocks and stews for an additional nutritional kick. Thank you BBC Good Food for the recipe inspiration 🙂


Rinse and roughly chop the wild garlic leaves.

Bring a large pan 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 before roughly chopping them, and adding to the food processor.

Blitz the wild garlic leaves, nettles, parmesan, garlic, lemon zest and pine nuts to a rough paste. Season, and with the motor running slowly, add almost all the oil. Taste, season and add a few squeezes of lemon juice.

Transfer the pesto to a clean jar and top with the remaining oil. Will keep in the fridge for two weeks.


  • 150g wild garlic leaves and young nettles (foraged if possible)
  • 50g parmesan or vegetarian alternative, finely grated
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • ½ lemon , zested and a few squeezes of juice
  • 50g pine nuts, toasted
  • 150ml extra virgin olive oil



Extra Info

Take a pocket guidebook, and check it before picking anything. Make sure that it’s legal to forage in a public area or that you have the landowner’s permission. Use all your senses to identify the plants you’re looking for; it may look similar to wild garlic but if it doesn’t smell of garlic – don’t eat it! Never pick leaves next to busy roads or lanes, or low down, where dogs are regularly walked. If foraging for stinging nettles, wear gloves when picking and make sure to cook properly.

About Kimberley

Kimberley, Acupuncturist and Clinic Director at Life + Lemons, is a registered TCM (Traditional Chinese Medical) Acupuncturist, passionate about helping women reclaim their feminine edge. After graduating with a First Class Honors in York, she has undertaken specialist training in the area of pain management, natural conception, IVF support, menopause + pelvic pain (endometriosis/dysmenorrhea).


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