If you’re getting bored of pasta, how about livening it up by making some homemade pesto to go with it, using plants from the woods or garden? Normally pesto is made with basil leaves, but you may not have any and it can be tricky to find in the shops at the moment. Don’t worry, though, pesto can be made from so many different leafy veg and herbs: the word “pesto” has nothing to do with the plants used in the recipe. It is an Italian word and comes from the verb “pestare” which means to pound or crush. Read on for ideas of the different herbs or tasty leaves that can be crushed up with oil, nuts and cheese to make a delicious sauce for pasta.

For example, right now there is a lot of wild garlic sprouting in the countryside and this makes excellent pesto. If you can easily walk to somewhere where the wild garlic is blooming, then fill your boots! (OK, maybe not your boots… Take a carrier bag with you instead.)

 

Or, if you enjoyed the nettle soup recipe that I posted a few days ago, you could have a go at nettle pesto instead! If you want to do that, you must plunge the washed stinging nettles into boiling water for a minute to get rid of the sting. Then drain the cooked leaves and then put them in between a couple of layers of kitchen towel and squeeze out all the excess water.

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Now you can follow the recipe below, putting the cooked nettles in the whizzer (technical term for a food mixer…) and use all the same ingredients to make up your pesto:

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Wild garlic is also known as ramsons. The leaves can be wilted and used in place of spinach.

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Why not do a search for all the things you can cook with wild garlic or other green leafy vegetables? You’ll be amazed at the ideas out there. I have cooked quiches and omelettes with wild garlic leaves and also stirred them into curries and soups at the last stages of cooking. Even people who usually don’t like dark green leafy veg find that they love them mixed into other things. And they are super-healthy for us, packed with vitamins and minerals, which we all need right now!

Other leaves you can use for pesto are parsley (flat-leaf is best) or kale. And if you can’t get pine nuts then you could use toasted hazelnuts or almonds or walnuts. There are lots of hard cheeses that can be used instead of parmesan, too. Hard goats’ cheese is particularly yummy.

Whatever you cook today, have fun. And stay well.

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Nature Month-by-Month – a children’s almanac by Anna Wilson, illustrated by Elly Jahnz is published by Nosy Crow and The National Trust and is available to order online.

Your independent bookshop can take orders over the phone and post books out to you, too. Give them a call!