The woods are full of wild garlic. A good friend of mine, who is been gathering wild garlic every spring for years now, gave me a small jar of wild garlic pesto as a present last year. It was so amazingly delicious that this year I really wanted to gather the wild garlic and make the pesto myself. I was a bit nervous about it at first, because I remembered 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 evening and on Saturday I spent all morning making lots of pesto and a wild garlic paste to use as a condiment in other dishes. And because I still had a handful of it left and as it was time for lunch anyway, I even made a wild garlic potato soup which was fabulous.
I read a bit on Wikipedia about wild garlic and found out that its essential oils 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 the wild garlic when you have the possibility.
The quantities given in the recipe below are enough for a small batch of pesto, about 4 or 5 small jars. I made the double amount and stored everything in the freezer. It will keep in the fridge for a week or two as well if you keep the pesto well covered with oil.
To make the pesto is very quick and easy, the only part that was a bit annoying was the washing and especially the drying of the leaves. You really have to do that thoroughly. The quantities given are not mandatory. Add more or less 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 I found it too stiff, so for the second batch I used less sunflower seeds. It was still amazing in the end, just a little bit softer.
When eating this with pasta make sure you keep about a cup of the noodles’ cooking water. You can then mix the pasta with the pesto and thin the sauce with as much of the reserved water as you need.Of course, you can always add more oil to make it smoother but I have my difficulties in using as much as I did anyway, so I rather prefer to thin this with cooking water.
I have also eaten this pesto with potatoes, I’ve stirred this in eggs and made omelet, made salad dressings with it, it definitely has a lot of possibilities. You can even spread it on bread and eat with cheese.
Serves: 4 or 5 small jars
- 300 g/ 10.6 oz wild garlic, stalks removed
- 100 g/ 3.5 oz sunflower seeds
- 100 g/ 3.5 oz Parmesan
- 150 ml/ ⅔ cup sunflower oil + more for pouring into the filled glasses
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- Wash and dry the wild garlic very thoroughly. Chop the leaves and place them in the food processor (I used my Thermomix to make this). Turn this to a rough paste, add the rest of the ingredients and and process everything to obtain a smooth paste.
- Place the 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 too tightly if you intend to freeze the pesto.
- You can keep this in the fridge, covered with the thin layer of oil, for 1 or 2 weeks. To keep it longer, place it in the freezer.