Wild Edibles Recipes: Garlic Mustard Pesto

Wild Edibles Recipes: Garlic Mustard Pesto

Garlic mustard, Alliaria petiolata, is a non-native plant in Minnesota, brought to the United States in the mid-1800’s by Europeans for use as a culinary herb. Since it has no native enemies, it is able to outcompete native plant species for sun, soil, space, and water, making it an invasive plant.

Garlic mustard is a wild edible, and can be used in many dishes, including pesto. In Minnesota, Garlic Mustard flowers in April and May. The leaves are best when they are young, before they create seed pods. It is important to eradicate Garlic Mustard where it grows in the United States; volunteers around the country remove literally tons of it every year. This recipe provides another way to benefit from the process!

To begin, gather garlic mustard plants. They can be identified by their triangular, heart-shaped leaves with scalloped edges and white flowers arranged in a cross shape. Grab them by the base of the plant and pull upwards firmly; the plant should come out of the ground easily, exposing its long taproot. Continue this process until all plants in the area are pulled. If you use them in the recipe, ensure you are not removing them from an area that has been sprayed with pesticides.

The part of the plant used to make the pesto will be the leaves. This recipe yields about 3 cups of pesto, give or take. You will need a couple of large handfuls of leaves. Pull them off the plant and rinse them thoroughly.

Ingredients:

  • 2 fistfuls of garlic mustard leaves
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup crushed walnuts
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon white truffle oil (optional)
  • dash of garlic salt, to taste
  • dash of pepper, to taste
  • dash of basil, to taste

In a food processor, crush the garlic mustard leaves. Slowly add the olive oil, walnuts, truffle oil, and parmesan cheese. Add the seasonings until it tastes the way you want it to. The garlic mustard leaves already have an earthy, light garlic taste to them so a lot of seasoning is not necessary. This is a very forgiving recipe, so you can easily play around with the amount of leaves, oil, walnuts, and parmesan in it until it reaches the consistency you desire. I prefer mine less oily so I stuck with the cup of olive oil, which results in a pesto that looks more pasty than oily.

This pesto is excellent served on crackers, and goes well with cheese. It is outstanding served over pasta, and also compliments the grainy flavors of brown rice. The taste is, in my opinion, much lighter and earthier than store-bought pesto. I’m a huge fan. I’m already looking forward to next year’s eradication efforts!

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