Pesto is a base recipe for food as medicine. The herbs you use for pesto are concentrated sources of health-enhancing nutrients. Through the seasons, you can make several batches for use on cooked vegetables, grains, really anything and everything.
Pesto is also a great recipe to begin to explore a little wild plant medicine.
When I speak of wild plants, I’m talking about plants you collect from your (unsprayed with chemicals!) lawn or the edge of a forest. I’m taking about dandelion greens, garlic mustard, mugwort and the like.
Many of these wild plants are strongly flavored – I think of them as the wild game of the plant world – and just a little wild food does a human good. So, in a pesto, I will mix familiar herbs like basil with a bit of the stronger wild stuff like dandelion or garlic mustard, depending upon what’s tender and not overwhelming (dandelions, for example, get more and more bitter as the season progresses).
Here is a base recipe for pesto I use and modify based on what’s available. Sometimes I use cheese, often not (I love to eat a lot of it, and cheese is not the most health-enhancing food for me, so I use just a smidgen). I can use creamy pine nuts, toasted walnuts, or sweet almonds depending upon the herbs I have, the flavors I’d like to play with, and what I’m hankering for.
Here it is:
Herbal Pesto Recipe
- 1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 1/2 cups fresh leafy green herbs (basil, cilantro, thyme, parsley or your favorite)
- 1/2 cup wild savory herbs (garlic basil, dandelion)
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and center woody section removed
- 1/2 cup nuts or seeds (pepitas, walnuts, almonds)
- 1/2 tsp salt
Pour oil into a blender, add garlic, nuts, and herbs in thirds and blend to that lovely pesto loose paste-like consistency. Add salt.
Classic pesto contains basil and pine nuts and a half-cup of Parmesan in the above recipe. Use your imagination and what you have on hand. Variations are endless!
Remember, when it comes to wild food and botanical medicines – safety first!