It is the time of year when the nurseries are stocked with little pots of lovely green herbs and my own seedlings putz along with remarkable slowness in the greenhouse… I can only stare at these starts, longingly – whispering kind, but threatening words of encouragement into their still petite foliage. “Mama wants her pesto. Hurry up and grow, so that I might chop you to flavorful bits…” With the days of Genovese basil all too distant, wild weed pesto is just the ticket to the flavor and freshness that I am craving.
Spring often offers plenty of edible greens if you know what you are looking for. They are often full of wonderful bitterness that embraces our liver and digestive system, cleaning and eliminating the winter detritus of cookies and gravy. Like your mom showing up at your first home away from home, washing the dishes, doing your laundry, sweeping, mopping and vacuuming – because you needed the help. You probably need the help of bitter greens too, because your still winterized body might be full of junk. I like to make big patches of wild weed pesto. Without any cheese added, this wild weed pesto (and virtually all pestos) stores beautifully in the freezer. I pour some into ice cube trays, and then transferred to freezer bags after frozen. This wild weed pesto is great over fish and chicken, stirred into sauces and soups, folded into ricotta lasagna layers (I substitute roasted eggplant disks for pasta sheets – yum), and spread over flatbread with hearty dollops of fresh goat cheese for a light pizza treat.
The following edibles make the “short list” for possible additions to my wild weed pesto. Always make sure that you are harvesting your weeds from pollutant and spray free areas such as roadways and sidewalks. Once you have trained your eyes, you will see wild edible greens everywhere. Which is wonderful because wild weed pesto is a tasty treat!
Chickweed (Stellaria media): Low growing in a tangled mass, chickweed thrives in lawns, gardens and disturbed areas. A favorite of chickens. Loaded with chlorophyll, magnesium, zinc, calcium, manganese, iron, phosphorus, A, B and C vitamins. Fresh flavor and not too bitter.
Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum): Despite its slightly ominous name, the pretty purplish dead nettle is not only edible but nutritious as it is high in vitamin C and quercetin.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale): While dandelion might be the bane of the person on a quest of the perfect lawn, it is a nutritional powerhouse. The bitter leaves full of folate, magnesium, phosphorus copper, vitamins A, B6, C, E and K, thiamin, riboflavin, calcium, iron, potassium, and manganese. I roast the roots of dandelion for herbal coffee and I am planning on making dandelion wine with the flowers this coming summer.
Cat’s Ear (Hypochaeris radicata): Often confused for dandelion and rightfully so, cat’s ear has LESS sharply serrated leaves and shaggier flowers. They are nutritionally quite similar to dandelions, albeit with a slightly less bitter flavor.
Wood Sorrel (Oxalis): Lemony and slightly sour, this clover look-alike is full of vitamin C. While it is nutritious and non-toxic, wood sorrel should be avoided by folks with kidney stones, gout and rheumatic conditions due to the high oxalic acid content.
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea): Also known as pigweed, the succulent fat leaves of purslane have more omega-3 fatty acid than any other leafy green and are abundant in vitamins A, C, riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine, iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and manganese.
Lamb’s Quarter (Chenopodium album): Easily identified with its telltale whitish underside, lamb’s quarters are full of niacin, folate, iron, magnesium phosphorus, vitamin A, B6, C, K, thiamin, riboflavin, calcium, potassium, copper, and manganese. Like wood sorrel, lamb’s quarter should be avoided by those suffering from kidney stones, gout and rheumatic conditions due to the high oxalic acid content.
There are many, many other edible wild weeds worth mentioning – stinging nettle, cress, miner’s lettuce, just to name a few. I encourage you to take the time to identify and learn about wild weeds that are abundant in your area. What is better than free, nutritious and downright tasty food, I ask you?
Wild Weed Pesto
- 4 cups assorted wild edible greens
- 1/4 cup blanched slivered almonds or pine nuts
- 3 cloves garlic
- zest of one lemon
- 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Rinse, drain and pat dry your foraged weeds.
- In the bowl of a food processor, quickly pulse garlic and almonds to a rough meal.
- Add foraged weeds and lemon zest to food processor and pulse until well combined.
- While food processor is running, slowly pour in olive oil until desired consistency is reached. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve with desired dish or freeze until needed.