Making this delicious pesto is something that we look forward to with anticipation each year. It's easy for little hands to help identify, collect, make & eat! We've been quietly waiting for the wild garlic in our garden to shoot up as an aromatic sign of spring (it'll happen), but it seems that a little further along our valley the ramson has already burst into bloom, so a local foraging walk makes this delicious dish possible. Wild garlic (ramson) is often first detected with the nose. This distinctive feature is so important as you may otherwise be mistakenly collecting some poisonous plants that look similar to the wild garlic, so always crush wild garlic between your fingers before picking more & if in doubt don't - if it is wild garlic your fingers will smell of onions or...garlic! Using our other senses to help us identify plants is a wonderful way for children to get to know this plant too. Make sure that you pick from the base of the plant but not pulling up the bulb, & only take what you need (this should never deplete an area). Wild garlic is also a source of food for our wildlife too, especially once it comes into flower, so remember to treat growing areas with respect. This recipe takes 100g (that was about 4 large handfuls of stalks for me...but that will depend on size of the hands collecting it!) and will make an average sized jam jar full of pesto. If this is too much pesto for your family to consume in 1-2 weeks then consider halving the amounts for a more 'pesto sized jar' that you might see in the shop.
If you have a food processor at home, or can borrow one from a friend or neighbour, making the pesto can be incredibly easy for with younger members of the family helping, but you can also make it the traditional way with a pestle & mortar, just work in batches with smaller amounts & be sure to let that pestle crush & smush everything together in the mortar!
Eat the pesto mixed through pasta dishes, spread thinly on buttery toast, on the side with a warm or cold salad, mix it into an omelette or bread mix or if you're a true wild garlic lover - eat it off the spoon! Wild garlic is packed full of nutrients & vitamin C & as with all garlics is known to be effective at lowering blood pressure - so if you are put off by pesto - just eat the wild garlic (leaves, flowers & stems) raw in salads, or cooked as you would spinach. Either way - Enjoy!
See below for the full ingredients.
This activity is great for your wellbeing because you can:
Get active- go walking through the hills and along streams and river banks in order to source your fresh wild garlic leaves out in nature. Be sure to identify them correctly by smelling the leaves between your fingers & checking with a plant ID app to be extra sure.
Keep Learning- be sure to study and learn about the wild garlic that you forage - then learn how to weigh, measure, cook and create in the kitchen. You could even create some decorative labels for your jars of pesto too.
Be Mindful- Use not just your eyes to identify but also your fingers (how does it feel?) and your noses (what does it smell like?) to discover this plant. Engaging the senses can help us remember this delicious plant for future times.
Practice Kindness- When foraging wild garlic be sure to take only what you need and leave plenty behind for the birds, insects and small animals, they rely on the early greens to give them energy to get through to more plentiful months too.
Think Community- Share some of your delicious treats with your wider family or neighbours.
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100g freshly picked, washed, dried & chopped wild garlic leaves (if you are struggling to find this amount of wild garlic or even half the amount, you can also pick small fresh young nettles to add up to half of the amount that you are making).
1/2 tsp of salt - add more to taste if wanted
Pinch of pepper
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon - If your lemon is large then pour in the lemon bit by bit and taste. You can always add more after an initial blitz in the processor if you want more. I don't mind the lemony taste but you don't want it to overpower.
65g of *walnuts - traditionally pesto uses pine nuts but you could substitute with most nuts (eg almonds, hazelnuts) or seeds (eg pumpkin or sunflower), it only slightly changes the taste each time, so remember to test it out and taste as you go. Find out what you like!
*If you are NUT ALLERGIC - substitute the nuts for an extra 2 tbsp of either parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast.
3tbsp of Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast (add extra if you are nut allergic).
150ml of olive oil - a light olive oil one will do for this, but feel free to experiment.
Prepare your ingredients:
Pick, wash, dry & roughly chop your wild garlic leaves
Grate the zest off your lemon, then cut and juice the lemon.
If you walnuts are whole, crush or chop them into pieces and dry toast (no oil) them in a deep frying pan for approx 5mins over a medium heat. Remove from the heat once toasted and leave to cool.
Measure out the rest of your ingredients ready: oil, parmesan/nutritional yeast, salt & pepper
Place all your ingredients into the food processor except the oil and consider adding the lemon juice a little at a time. Taste to find what works for you. Blitz all the ingredients together until fairly fine & then slowly pour in the oil bit by bit - keeping a little back to seal it in the jar with - then keep blitzing until the pesto looks smooth and fine. Taste and if needed add more salt/pepper/oil to taste.
If using the pestle & mortar then start with the salt, pepper, zest and wild garlic leaves until they turn to a pulp, then add a little lemon juice, then the crushed nuts and same again, then add your parmesan or nutritional yeast and finally the oil bit by bit.
Sterilise your jar & lid (you can reuse a glass jar) by standing it in boiling water for 5mins - be careful of your fingers!
Fill your jar but leave a little gap at the top. Pour remaining oil over the top of the pesto in the jar to create an oil seal - it makes the pesto last longer by helping prevent moulds. *TIP - when you use your pesto - ensure you keep the rim & sides of the jar clean of the pesto and a cover of the same oil on the top - this will also help it keep for it's full time as it is less exposed to air.
Enjoy & keep in the fridge for 1- 2 weeks.