I love foraging for food! Coming home with a bag of treasures from a walk in nature, mix it up ready for dinner, just feels like magic. How much more fresh can it get?
- 200 g mix of wild garlic (ramson), nettles and dandelion leaves
- 100 g roasted nuts or seeds
- 100 g flavourful, firm cheese
- 100 g mild olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp of lemon juice
Makes about 300 ml of pesto
What to do
- Pick the wild garlic, nettles and dandelion leaves away from heavily trafficked roads (both by cars and dogs…). The younger plants, or only the top of the nettles have a fresher flavour. When they are big the nettles get a bit woody and the dandelions quite bitter. Choose your ratio of plats according to the flavour you prefer: more wild garlic gives a stronger garlic flavour (surprisingly..?), more nettles more of a grassy flavour and dandelions a bit more bitterness. I like garlic so my preference is at least half of the 200 g as wild garlic, then most of the other half as nettles and only a few dandelion leaves. You can also use only one of the three, or toss in some of the green tops from carrots or radishes.
- Soak the plants in cold water to wash off littles bugs and dust, pick them up one by one (more or less) and drain. They don’t have to be DRY, but just not soaking wet when you mix it all up.
- Roughly chop your nuts and roast them and/or your seeds in a hot, dry pan until they turn slightly darker. I tend to use whatever nuts or seeds I have at home, whether it’s hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, pine nuts or pumpkin seeds. My favourite is pumpkin seeds and hazelnuts as it gives a really nutty flavour.
- Grate your cheese, here as well, pick a cheese you like, that is aged and firm with quite a lot of flavour such as Parmesan, Gruyère or Compté. You can also just skip the cheese and add some more nuts if you want to make a dairy free option.
- Mix all ingredients with a blender or a hand mixer until it’s all smooth, creamy and very green. Add more olive oil if you think it’s too firm.
- Enjoy with your pasta, in an omelette or on a grilled steak.
- Lasts about a week in the refrigerator.
- If you make a larger batch a tip is to freeze it in ice cube forms, then pop them into a plastic bag in the freezer and you have portion cubes of pesto just to toss into your hot pasta and enjoy!
These green leaves, some of them mostly regarded as notorious weeds, actually have some quite remarkable nutritional properties.
Wild garlic was used already 2000 years ago by ancient populations all over Europe both as culinary addition for its flavour, but also for its medicinal properties. The plant is rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds (such as dLGG, flavonoids, carotenoids and phenolic acids) which have proved preventative effects on cardiovascular disease, tumour growth and inflammation. It also has antimicrobial properties that fight bacteria or fungal infections.
Other than that it’s rich in Vitamin C, iron and magnesium.
Nettles have, just as wild garlic, been used since the dawn of times, and records exist from as early as the Bronze Age. Back in the 16th century it was common to make fabric out of nettles in the Scottish highlands. Nettles have a high content of dietary fibres, Vitamin A, C and K, iron and calcium. It also has potent medicinal properties and can give pain relief in arthritis, rheumatism and muscular pain thanks to its high content of antioxidants, polyphenols and carotenoids.
For further reading
Pharmacological studies on Wild garlic
Medicinal properties of the Stinging nettle