Wild Garlic Pesto Recipe

Wild Garlic is one of the most common and easily located wild foods here in the UK. Growing in abundance during spring, it not only tastes & smells amazing but contains natural antibacterial & antibiotic properties too. Try this tasty & versatile Wild Garlic pesto recipe to give you and your dishes a natural boost that’s rich in vitamins & minerals.

Most often found in shaded woodland areas that are close to moisture.  Riverbanks and the forest floor teem with Wild Garlic every March-May. Creating an ocean of bright, shiny green leaves. Towards the end of April, ornate star-shaped white flowers form clusters on top of tall, thin stems. Follow your nose as its strong garlicky scent rarely goes unmissed on walks. 

The National Trust have a list of places across the UK that are abundant in Wild Garlic and ideal for personal foraging (see link at bottom of blog) 

The smell of Wild Garlic is unmissable and along with its long green, oval-shaped leaves, it makes for an easily identifiable and safe forage that is great for first-timers. 

Pick the Wild Garlic before flowering. This ensures the most flavour and scent from the leaves as the plant hasn’t yet put all its energy and nutrients into flowering. Normally anytime from the end of March to the beginning of May. You can still pick leaves right up until July, just expect a less intense flavour. 

Word of warning – the leaves are similar to Lily of the Valley which is poisonous. Use your nose and check the flowers – Lily of the Valley has very distinctive bell-shaped flowers.

Pick the long, bright leaves close to the ground. 

Always leave the bulb intact so it flowers again next year.

Take a basket or bag with you so you don’t resort to stuffing them in your pocket and stinking of garlic for the foreseeable.  

Forage sustainably and responsibly following this advice from the Woodland Trust: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/things-to-do/foraging/foraging-guidelines/

With many similar health benefits to cultivated garlic, wild garlic is effective in reducing blood pressure, cholesterol levels and aiding digestion. It also contains vitamin A & C, iron, calcium, phosphorous, sodium & copper. 

Boasting a very long history of medicinal use – the “1st-century Greek botanist Pedanius Dioscorides stated it in his five-volume herbal encyclopedia. Describing its effectiveness for the cleansing and detoxification of the body.” (Facts & Benefits of Wild Garlic, https://www.healthbenefitstimes.com/wild-garlic/)

Use in anything and everything you want to add a hit of garlic too. This pesto works really well added to savoury dishes like chilli or bolognese, swirled in soup, spread on bruschetta or the classic laced through ribbons of pasta. 

 Wild Garlic Pesto Recipe

Cooking Time: 15 minutes | Yield: 200 ml

Ingredients

70g Washed, fresh wild garlic leaves

45g Roasted Hazelnuts

60g Parmesan

1/2 Lime or lemon, juiced

Handful of Basil

A good glug of Olive Oil

Salt & Pepper

Method

1. Roast & rub skins off the hazelnuts and leave them to cool (see tips below on how to roast)

2. Put the wild garlic leaves in the blender and blitz.

3. Add the cooled hazelnuts, lime juice, parmesan, basil leaves, salt & pepper and blitz.

4. Slowly add olive oil to the mix and blend until combined to your preferred consistency.

Tips & Ideas

How to Roast Hazelnuts

Raw hazelnuts can be quite bland and the shells bitter but by roasting them, the flavour and aroma is massively intensified.

  1. Place hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet at 180°c for 12-15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. They are done when they start turning brown and the nuts become shiny and fragrant.

2. Leave the nuts to cool for a few minutes.

3. Pour into a bowl lined with a clean tea towel, gather edges of the towel up and start rubbing the hazelnuts together in the towel – this will enable all the shells to flake off.

4. Remove the hazelnuts from the towel, carefully discarding the shells in the process.

Lemon or Lime?

So many pesto recipes used lemon, I only had a lime in at the time but loved the extra zest and freshness it brought to the pesto. Lemon will also work well if you prefer a more traditional flavour.

How to store 

Store in a tightly lidded jar (to prevent oxidisation) in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. If there is any leftover or you want to have a real flavour burst on hand for future meals, try freezing portions in an ice cube tray and pop into chilli’s, stew’s, soups and pasta. 

Vegan Version

Use a vegan cheese alternative or try making your own vegan Parmesan to add to it.

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