Plant Recipe - Wild Pesto
Note: I am sharing this post publicly as an example of content that will be available for digital subscribers at $5 and up. 

In McCarthy, Alaska it is the time of year where greens are popping up everywhere. It’s also been a couple of weeks since I went to the grocery store (which is 4-8 hours away) and a few more weeks until I can harvest greens from my garden. It is the time of year when I take full advantage of all the edible weeds growing around my cabin. I make fresh teas and chop them up to put in soups, stir fries, and anything else. One of my favorite things to do is to make a wild pesto. I've made a few batches, and put several jars in the freezer to save for later.

Harvest in a bowl

Traditional Italian pesto is made with Genovese Basil, but I think you can make it with any edible greens. I used some of the weeds growing around my cabin including:

  • Fireweed shoots – Chamerion angustifolium (A note on harvesting Fireweed – in early spring harvest the shoots while they are still tender enough to pinch off with a thumb and forefinger, after that harvest the leaves)
  • Raspberry leaf – Rubus idaeus
  • Bluebell leaf – Mertensia paniculata
  • Dandelion leaf – Taraxacum officinale

A plate of greens - clockwise from top: Fireweed, Mint, Dandelion, Oregano, Raspberry, and Bluebell

I also included a few herbs from my garden: Spearmint and Oregano. You could use what you have available, and this is what is most abundant near me right now. 

I got a few culinary herb starts this spring for my kitchen

After harvesting about 2 cups of greens, I put them in a food processor to chop them up. I don’t want to endorse unnecessary kitchen equipment, and I’ve made pesto before by hand, but if you have or can borrow a food processor for your pesto adventures, it makes the result better. If not I’d suggest chopping the herbs as finely as possible, and then muddling them or crushing them somehow to release some juices. 

To the chopped herbs I added olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, salt, pepper, and cheese. Please feel free to substitute the following:

  • Cheese – Parmesan is traditional, but I didn’t have any so I used finely grated cheddar. You could also skip cheese all together and use Nutritional Yeast
  • Pine Nuts – We happen to have these lovely and nutritious nuts, but you could substitute other nuts and seeds. Sunflower or Hemp seeds are good.

Once it’s prepared you can use your pesto on pasta, meat, tofu, in salad dressing, bread or crackers, etc. I made a couple of extra jars to put in the freezer. I put a skim of olive oil on top of the pesto to help keep them fresh. 

Finished pesto for the freezer or dinner (cover with olive oil before putting in the freezer)

About this series: I'll be publishing at least one post a month to inspire others to interact with and use the plants around them. I'll use the plants and herbs around me as a jumping off point. Topics will include recipes for the kitchen, for medicine, and for connecting with surroundings in a more spiritual way. Each post will include an illustrated PDF for you to print out, color, and save. Please subscribe to receive future recipes.