A Seasonal Recipe: Wild Garlic Pesto
Nothing says ‘warm weather’s coming’ quite like a bit of pesto, don’t you agree?! Whilst we’re a long while off a balmy summer evening with an ice cold glass of Rose in the garden yet; you can get your pesto ‘fix’ a little sooner if you know your stuff.
I know what you’re thinking: “Well I can get my pesto ‘fix’ any old time I want thanks. I just have a wander down the pasta aisle in Tesco.” Well then my friend you have clearly never whizzed up your own pesto in all but two seconds flat but one hundred percent from scratch then have you?! It’s another one of those ‘it’s a bit of a cheek to really call it a recipe’ recipes to be honest. But they’re our favourite kinds. Not least because it means that dinner or lunch can be on the table in not much more time than it takes to boil some water and fire some pasta in a pan. And sometimes after a long or stressful day that’s all you want, isn’t it?!
We’re not ones to exaggerate but trust us when we tell you it’s not too bold a claim to say that until you’ve made your own pesto, you really have never lived. Pesto from a jar in the supermarket is all well and good and serves it’s purpose here and there BUT once you’ve made your own you’ll rarely go back. Supermarket pasta misses the freshness and always has a bit of a tendency to taste grassy or…old. A fresh pesto swished through some spaghetti with a bit of Parmesan and a scattering of toasted pine nuts is a damned fine thing to behold.
But here’s the thing. Yes you can get fresh basil all year round in the supermarket - like everything else really. But its pricey. And a good pesto calls for handfuls of the stuff. There are so many more greens you can make a speedy pesto with but imagine making it with something that’s one hundred percent free?! We thought we’d have you on board….
Pesto actually originates from Genoa, the capital city of Liguria in Italy. It traditionally consists of crushed garlic, salt, pine nuts, basil leaves and a hard cheese such as Pecorino or Parmesan. But since ‘rules’ are meant to be broken (or at least bent a little), might we share one of our favourite ways to make it.
Wild Garlic is perfect for creating your own pesto with. And it’s just starting to shoot up all over the place and so it’s a particularly perfect time to get cracking. It’s an unmistakable and quite obvious garlicky scent in woodlands and forests during the early Spring months and prefers to grow in damp and shady spots. It has a much lighter, softer flavour than a traditional garlic bulb and the leaves and white flowers are pretty easy to identify which makes it a great find for those starting to try foraging in the wild for the first time. The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked which makes them really versatile and great added to soups, salads and pestos. They’re also just starting to make an appearance up here in Cumbria and make a great addition to an early Spring feast! The flowers come a little later in mid-April and are delicious popped into sandwiches or scattered liberally through salads and add a subtle garlicky, oniony flavour.
Make sure to always forage responsibly: Only pick from areas with a plentiful supply. Leave enough for wildlife and never ever pick protected species. Always make sure to ask permission if you are not foraging in a public place!
SOME WILD GARLIC FACTS YOU JUST MIGHT NOT KNOW…
*Wild garlic can sometimes be called Ramsons.
*A great huge carpet of wild garlic is a sign that the woodland you are walking in might be very old.
*In the past wild garlic has been praised for its health benefits and has been long-used throughout Europe for it’s blood-purifying benefits! It’s also thought to help lower cholesterol, just like bulb garlic.
*In the past the leaves were once boiled and used as a disinfectant.
*Its smell is said to repel cats so might also be a good garden choice for keen ornithologists!
*The jury’s still out on if it also repels vampires like it’s more pungent pal: Bulb garlic.
SO pesto! Arguably one of the easiest ways to use wild garlic. Pesto is also versatile as a pizza sauce, swirled through hummus or a little natural yoghurt as a dipping sauce or even frozen in ice cubes in the freezer and swizzled through easy steamed veg to brighten it up a bit!
YOU WILL NEED
150g (or thereabouts!) of wild garlic leaves.
50g of parmesan or vegetarian/vegan alternative.
1 garlic clove.
1/2 lemon zested and a little juice.
50g of pine nuts.
150ml of rapeseed oil.
TO GET PESTO-ING…
Step one: Rinse well and roughly chop the wild garlic.
Step two: Whizz up all wild garlic leaves, parmesan, garlic, lemon zest aaaand pine nuts into a rough paste in a food processor. You could also easily do this in a good old pestle and mortar.
Step three: Gradually add almost all of the oil with the motor still running. Taste and season to taste with a few squeezes of lemon juice.
Step four: Transfer the pesto to a clean jar and top up with the remaining oil. Should keep in the fridge for up to two weeks. Also handy popped into an icecube tray for a super-speedy addition to green veg, baby new potatoes or tossed through some pasta for supper at a moments’ notice!
We did say it was a ‘recipe’ in the loosest sense of the word. If you really love your pestos or just really love a super-quick meal; why not try substituting the wild garlic with kale, watercress, avocado, red pepper, pea, parsley, carrot tops or broad beans. You can also play about with your nuts and try walnuts, hazelnuts or sunflower seeds too. The opportunities are endless!
Let us know if you have a go! Or shout if there’s a pesto recipe we need to try or an ingenious way to use it up!