Homemade wild garlic pesto with Parmesan, sunflower oil and sunflower seeds.
Wild garlic pesto with sunflower seeds
The woods are full of wild garlic. Every spring I gather a huge amount of it just to make this wild garlic pesto with sunflower seeds. Countless little jar, suitable for freezing and better tasting than any other pesto I have ever had!
It was a good friend who introduced me to wild garlic. I was a bit nervous about it at first because I remember seeing a report on TV a couple of years ago about people mistaking lilies of the valley for wild garlic and poisoning themselves this way.
But my friend is an expert in this and she is been gathering wild garlic in the woods for such a long time now, that I decided to trust her. And she explained the differences between the two plants to me and once you know them, there is actually no way you could mistake them. Plus the smell of the woods when you get to the place where the wild garlic grows… A wood smelling of garlic is definitely an experience worth having.
Anyway, we did gather a lot of wild garlic on Friday and then, on Saturday, I spent all morning making lots of pesto and wild garlic paste to use as a condiment in other dishes.
Plus some Green Wild Garlic Crepes and this amazing Vegan Wild Garlic Sunflower Spread, which I also place into small jars and freeze. And because I still had a handful of it left in the end and it was time for lunch anyway, I even made a wild garlic potato soup which was fabulous.
What is wild garlic?
Allium ursinum, also known as wild garlic, ramsons, buckrams, bear’s garlic, bear leek or wood garlic is a relative to chives, native to Europe and Asia. It is widespread across most of Europe and has a short season in spring, from April to June, depending on where in Europe you are. In Germany, now is the time to go out and look for it.
Wild garlic also grows throughout North America, in the Eastern half of the United States and on the West coast.
Health benefits of wild garlic
- The essential oils in wild garlic have a positive influence on digestion, respiratory tract, liver, gall bladder, intestines, and stomach. It also stimulates the metabolism and lowers the bad cholesterol levels. All the more reasons to gather and eat wild garlic when you have the possibility.
- According to several sources, wild garlic can improve heart health as it has a good effect on high blood pressure and is able to lower cholesterol levels.
- Wild garlic can also improve stomach issues. can soothe inflammation, bloating, cramping, constipation, and other stomach issues.
- Another component of wild garlic can also neutralize free radical activity, thus helping to lower the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases, for instance, heart disease or arthritis.
What do you need?
- The quantities given in the recipe below are enough for a small batch of pesto, about 4 small jars.
- The quantities given are not mandatory. Add more or fewer sunflower seeds, Parmesan or salt according to your taste.
- The first batch I made contained more sunflower seeds and I found the final product to be a bit stiff. It tasted amazing but as I found it too stiff, I used fewer sunflower seeds when I made the second batch. It was still amazing in the end, just a little bit softer.
- As much as you have. Weigh and adjust the needed amounts of the remaining ingredients accordingly.
- I had never considered making pesto with sunflower seeds before, but it is a great idea, the resulting spread is flavorful and thoroughly delicious.
- Sunflower oil is the best match for the sunflower seeds.
- Use good quality olive oil.
- Always buy a wedge of Parmesan and not the already grated type, which is just not good at all.
Almond pesto – absolutely delicious as well.
- Replace the sunflower seeds with almonds, the sunflower oil with canola oil or mild olive oil.
- You could also replace the Parmesan with Pecorino, it makes a very flavorful pesto as well.
How to clean wild garlic leaves?
- Making the pesto is a very quick and easy affair, the only part that is a bit annoying is the washing and especially the drying of the leaves.
- But cleaning the leaves thoroughly is very important in order to avoid tapeworm infection, which under circumstances, can be very dangerous.
- I mentioned 30 minutes as preparation time only because of the time needed to thoroughly wash the wild garlic leaves, I wash every single one with hot water, rubbing it gently with the fingers on both sides.
- I spread some large clean towels on the table and place the washed leaves on top, patting them dry with other towels once I’ve washed them all.
- The actual time needed to make the pesto is much shorter, if you have a good food processor, you will be done in 5 minutes.
How to use up a jar of pesto?
We eat a lot of pesto, always homemade. Every year I make a batch of this wild garlic pesto, then another batch of wild garlic pesto with almonds, a batch of Mint Pistachio Pesto and maybe another one or two other pesto sorts that I don’t make so regularly, something like parsley or basil pesto. I freeze the jars so that we have delicious homemade pesto all through the year.
- I usually defrost a jar when my daughter wishes me to make her beloved Zucchini Feta Pancakes with Herbs or Spätzle with pesto. But when I cook those dishes I really don’t need a whole jar, a little pesto goes a long way, so I often have an open jar of pesto in the fridge.
- Use as a spread on dark rye bread (or regular bread) and top it with Camembert or a slice of cheddar and some sliced tomatoes.
- Mix with pasta. Keep about 1/2 cup of the noodles’ cooking water. Mix the pasta with the pesto and thin the sauce with some of the reserved water according to your taste.
- Another way of enjoying it with pasta is to mix it with a little cream cheese, both my children love that.
- Cook potatoes as you would for a salad, slice them while still hot and mix them with pesto. So good, a perfect side for some chicken or fish or a main meal with a salad on the side.
- Stir into eggs and make an omelet.
- Add it to salad dressings.
- You can mix it with feta or cream cheese and make a delicious bread spread.
- Spice up soups or stews.
- Make tortilla wraps, top with some veggies or cooked chicken and some cheese.
- Make pancakes, bread or rolls.
Can you freeze the pesto?
- You can increase the quantities as much as you want.
- Make as much as you wish and store everything in small jars in the freezer.
- Fresh or defrosted pesto will keep in the fridge for at least two weeks.
- It is best (but not mandatory) to keep it covered with a thin layer of oil.
First published: April 2015
Last updated: April 2020
- 300 g/ 10.6 oz wild garlic, stalks removed
- 100 g/ 3.5 oz/ about 3/4 cup sunflower seeds
- 100 g/ 3.5 oz/ 1 cup Parmesan
- 200 ml/ 6.7 fl.oz/ scant 1 cup sunflower oil + more for pouring into the filled glasses
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, add more if necessary
- Wash and dry the wild garlic very thoroughly. Chop the leaves and place them in the food processor.
- Process to a rough paste, add the rest of the ingredients and process everything to obtain a smooth paste. You will need to scrape the walls of the food processor a few times in between.
- Place the wild garlic pesto into small jars, pressing well with a teaspoon to avoid air holes. Pour some extra sunflower oil on top to cover the pesto with a thin layer of it.
- Place the lids on the jars, but don't screw them tightly if you intend to freeze the pesto.
- You can keep the pesto in the fridge, covered with the thin layer of oil, for at least 2 weeks. To keep it longer, place it in the freezer.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 763Total Fat: 66gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 53gCholesterol: 22mgSodium: 2494mgCarbohydrates: 32gFiber: 4gSugar: 1gProtein: 17g
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.