Wild Garlic Pesto

by Kristin on April 10, 2013

I was under deadline pressure, so my husband threw the wellies into the car and took the kids out of the house on a recent Saturday so I could get some work done. They came back a few hours later, running in to where I sat at my computer, saying, “We got you a surprise. Close your eyes!” I could smell it before I saw it — a bag full of freshly picked wild garlic.

My mother used to say that she felt like spring had arrived when the pastel-coloured M&Ms arrived in the shop. I know spring is here when the forest floor becomes a carpet of wild garlic. It gives new meaning to the Emerald Isle nickname at this time of year.

Wild garlic has long been prized in Ireland. In their new book, Wild Food* (a must-have for anyone interested in foraging), Biddy White Lennon and Evan Doyle write: “The early Celts appreciated wild garlic so much that annual wild garlic feasts had to be provided by the lower orders for their chiefs and kings … The Irish Brehon Law tracts (in use in Ireland from two and a half thousand years ago to until nearly the end of the sixteenth century) define the amount of garlic to be served as a relish as four stalks to each loaf of bread. It is widely used in salads, as a pot herb with fish, to flavour soups, stews, potato dishes, breads, scones, savoury pies and tarts. As a medicine it was mixed with honey for coughs, colds and chest complaints.”

If you want to know more about wild garlic (and a range of other wild foods), you can find fantastic downloads on the Wild & Slow website, including details of where to find it, colour photos of what it looks like, instructions on how to pick it, use it and preserve it plus a few recipes that include it. Georgina Campbell has also featured a few recipes from Wild Food in her April ezine.

I love to slice it into ribbons and add it to soda bread or stir it into mashed potatoes — like a wild version of colcannon — and this wild garlic, leek and potato bake from the Wild Food book sounds tempting too, but my favourite thing to do with it is to make big batches of pesto. It has all the same ingredients as a regular basil pesto, but the zippy, slightly grassy wild garlic makes a much punchier pesto. “Use it to impress as a dressing over salads, bake into your favourite bread dough, add to any pasta dish or mix with butter and slip under the skin of a chicken roast,” say Biddy White Lennon and Evan Doyle. Whatever you plan to do with it, just be sure to make a lot — it freezes beautifully, so scale up this recipe to make extra for a taste of springtime later in the year.

Wild Garlic Pesto

Makes 250ml (1 cup)

In their book Wild Food,* Biddy White Lennon and Evan Doyle advise using Kilner jars to store your pesto in, as the wild garlic and oil react with metal lids. I always make wild garlic pesto with a good squeeze of lemon juice to brighten the flavour, but feel free to leave it out.

50g (2 oz) Parmesan cheese
25g (1/4 cup) pine nuts
50g (2 oz) wild garlic leaves, stems removed
200ml (3/4 cup) rapeseed oil or extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, or to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Break off a 50g (2 oz) chunk of Parmesan cheese and cut it into a few slices. Place in a food processor and whizz until it’s roughly grated. Tip the cheese into a bowl and set aside. Place the pine nuts in the food processor and pulse until they’re roughly chopped. Tip into the bowl with the cheese. Doing it this way makes a pesto with some texture to it, which I love; if you’re not fussy about it, just blend the cheese, pine nuts and wild garlic together all at the same time.

Place the wild garlic in the food processor and whizz until it’s finely chopped. With the motor running, slowly pour in the oil until a thick sauce has formed (you might not need all the oil). Add in the lemon juice and pulse again to combine. Remove the blade from the food processor and stir in the Parmesan, pine nuts and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Taste the pesto and adjust the seasoning or add in more lemon juice if you want a little more zing.

Spoon the pesto into a clean Kilner jar (see note above) and store in the fridge for 1 or 2 weeks. This also freezes very well.

*I received a review copy of Wild Food from the publisher, O’Brien Press.

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Caroline Taylor April 12, 2013 at 1:18 pm

This looks so good. Very jealous of the wild garlic, I always have my eyes (and nose) peeled to try and find it but no luck so far.

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Kristin April 14, 2013 at 5:59 pm

You’ll know it when you find it, the smell is unmistakable. Good luck!

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Agnieszka Jarecka-Griffiths April 12, 2013 at 5:42 pm

It’s a very good idea. I’ve never seen wild garlic in the woods in UK but I’ll keep my eyes open and then try your pesto.

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Kristin April 14, 2013 at 5:59 pm

Hope you’re able to find it, it’s a real treat at this time of year.

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Cbb April 13, 2013 at 11:08 pm

Great perfect timing, there’s loads in my.
Local park/woods in Lucan

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Kristin April 14, 2013 at 5:59 pm

Excellent! Hope you enjoy the pesto if you try it.

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la domestique April 15, 2013 at 10:00 pm

The pesto looks so vibrant and fresh! I’m excited to check that link to the Wild and slow website videos so I can go foraging for wild garlic too!

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Kristin April 17, 2013 at 2:21 pm

The templates are a fantastic resource. Good luck foraging!

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Caroline@Bibliocook April 17, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Since reading the book I’ve been planning a pesto but there just isn’t enough in my little (tamed) wild garlic garden patch. Must go a-foraging further afield.

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Kristin April 21, 2013 at 5:04 pm

And in a recipe reversal, I can’t wait to try the potato, leek and wild garlic bake you wrote about!

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Marta April 25, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Thanks for the website. I also have found wild garlic recently, in abundance, and made a pesto using the garlic, almonds, grana padano cheese and oilve oil, blended. Was very tasty indeed. I also spponed it onto chicken breasts, sprinkled with breadcrumbs and i swera, this was the best chicken I made so far!

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Kristin April 28, 2013 at 5:46 pm

I love the idea of making it with almonds, I’m going to give that a try next time. Thanks for sharing!

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barbara o riordan April 25, 2013 at 5:54 pm

Hi, Just a tip when you are hunting for the wild garlic. Its grows beside streams, but likes shelter. Think of a glade, or a shady walkway with a little steam or spring flowing.

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Kristin April 28, 2013 at 5:46 pm

Yes! Thanks for sharing that tip.

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Petra May 3, 2013 at 12:31 pm

I love wild garlic! I do find some every year but not as much as you have, a little jealous! Like you I do pesto from some of it and it is always a seasonal favorite!

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Kristin May 11, 2013 at 3:32 pm

I’m very lucky to have found a whole forest full of it! Like you said, it’s a seasonal favourite.

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Nors May 3, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Wild garlic looks like blue bells but the flowers are white,I have in the garden and it spreads quickly.I love to make pesto with it,it’s got a gorgeous fresh grassy taste.its just coming into bloom now,a little late same as every other plant after our long winter but DEFINETLY orth the wait!

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Kristin May 11, 2013 at 3:31 pm

I was disappointed that the flowers weren’t in bloom when I harvested the wild garlic for that particular batch of pesto a few weeks ago. You’re lucky to have it right in your garden!

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Sam May 12, 2013 at 1:10 am

I made Wild Garlic pesto yesterday but chanfed the ingredients slightly using pistachio nuts and lemon balm instead of lemon juice.

It’s utterly fabulous.

Has anyone nade dandelion pesto and is it good?

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Kristin May 15, 2013 at 6:40 am

My husband loves pistachios, I must give that a try sometime. I’ve never made dandelion pesto, but I did make dandelion vodka last year (it had a strong taste, like honey). I wonder if a pesto would be very bitter?

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frances May 20, 2013 at 5:18 pm

Hi just picked a lot of wild garlic to make pesto for the first time .lots of it to be had in the woods at Loretto College Cavan,. growing along the road Happy hunting.

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Kristin May 22, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Thanks for the tip-off on where to find some!

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Veronica May 21, 2013 at 5:48 pm

I have so much wild garlic in my garden, was not sure what to do with So Thank you will try this

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Kristin May 22, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Glad I could give you some inspiration!

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monica daly June 3, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Hi there, I have my garlic leaves picked (I live in charleville forest, tullamore, in the heart of Ireland) and am almost ready for off. The only thing missing is the pine nuts but I’ll go to the shop later to get them. Looking forward to making your recipe. Thanks

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Kristin June 19, 2013 at 6:12 pm

Hope you enjoyed it!

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Mark March 19, 2014 at 5:06 pm

Hi,

My back garden, which has a few mature trees and quite a woodland feel, has suddenly become overrun with what I think is wild garlic although I’m not sure! It has a pungent (garlicky?) smell, I dug some up and found it to look like a flat leaf spring onion? If it is wild garlic have you any suggestions on how to control it without losing it altogether?!

Mark

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MikeL April 14, 2014 at 5:00 pm

Wow! That’s powerful stuff! 200ml oil is too much, makes it very runny.

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Joe April 15, 2014 at 8:56 pm

For anyone in the north cork area,there’s an abundance of wild garlic in doneraile park right now,In the woods beyond the big house,I just gathered some today.

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