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(recipe, Louisa Shafia)
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 this pesto with pasta, spread it on seared fish or chicken, or use as a dip for raw vegetables.
Culinate editor's note: Pick only young, delicate nettle leaves for this dish (wearing thick gloves and long sleeves, of course). If the nettles are clean enough, skip the cold-water stage of this recipe and go straight to the blanching stage. So long as you don't include long, thick stems in the mix, you can blanch the stems and the leaves together and leave the stems on; they grind down into a paste just fine. See more at Heather Arndt Anderson's post about nettles.