This cricket and stinging nettle pesto is the perfect springtime forager’s recipe!
Instead of using a traditional basil base, we’re using a plant that many people consider a weed called stinging nettle. This under-appreciated weed makes a bright base for your pesto. It has been used as food, dye, and medicine since the Bronze Age!
Humans and their ancestors have eaten insects for thousands of years. Eating bugs is going the ‘full paleo’—no true paleo diet would be complete without it! Crickets in particular are an excellent source of protein, yielding 20.5g of protein per 100g (compared to about 24g in 100g of chicken). They’re also a more environmentally friendly alternative to traditional livestock. Growing insects uses less feed, far less water, and emits less greenhouse gasses. For example, it takes about 24,000 gallons of water over a cow’s lifetime to produce one pound of beef. Crickets on the other hand, require hardly any water at all (most of their water is contained in the food scraps they eat, if that’s what they’re raised on as I have done at home!). In this recipe crickets are being used as a replacement for pine nuts, as they have a similar nutty taste.
Step 1: Ingredients
1/2 pound of nettles
3/4 cup of crickets
4 cloves of garlic
½ tsp. salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Other Specialty Tools needed:
Step 2: Sourcing Nettle
The stinging nettle plant is a sure sign of spring, and can be found in backyards, gardens, stream banks, and even along the road. Their characteristic serrated leaves have stinging hairs on the underside that are quite unpleasant if you brush up against them. Stinging nettle should be collected before it flowers. When you’re harvesting your nettle, make sure it’s coming from an area you know has not been treated with pesticides or herbicides! Always use a glove when harvesting and handling before cooking to avoid a painful sting.
Step 3: Sourcing Crickets
Crickets can be ordered online. It’s best to get them from a farm that rears them specifically for human consumption. Mine came from Big Cricket Farms in Youngstown, Ohio. Always keep them frozen when not in use, and they need to be cooked before they’re safe to eat—just like any other kind of meat!
(this photo is from a cricket farm in Don Chedi, Thailand. Cricket farms are big business in Southeast Asia!)
Step 4: Prep and Cook Nettles
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Using a gloved hand, cut the leaves off the stems. Add the leaves to the pot of water and let it boil for about a minute, or until it looks a bit like cooked spinach. Drain in a colander, and pat dry with a paper towel. You should have about 1 cup of cooked nettle leaves.
Step 5: Cook Your Crickets
Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the crickets to the water. Boil for about 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Drain.
Step 6: Combine Dry Ingredients
Smash the garlic and add to the work bowl of your food processor. Add crickets, salt, and pepper. Puree until well blended.
Step 7: Final Ingredients
Add the nettle a little at a time to your food processor. Next, squeeze in the lemon juice. Again puree until smooth. Add the olive oil a little at a time. Puree until smooth.
Step 8: Enjoy Your Paleo Pesto Sauce!
And there you have it!
Top some spaghetti squash with your pesto and you’ve got yourself a meal that’s as nutritious as it is tasty! You can also use it as a sauce for a paleo-friendly pizza. The possibilities are endless!
Keep Rustling Up Some Grub!