Wild Greens Pesto

This year, more shy than usual, wild weeds are slowly peeking through the dry and cold soil. The winter was cold, full of snow, and it’s hard to believe it’s April already, while snow is again forecasted for the upcoming days. As much as I love winter and the stillness it brings, I feel my body weeping for the sun’s warmth, lightness and freshness infusing the air. As in nature, so as in the body – I’m awaiting for that wave of spring’s energy to help me blossom again and open up to the world. Seasonal cycles are our own cycles, and once synchronised, we flow with joy and ease throughout the year.

WILD SUPERFOODS

The transition from winter to spring often brings an extensive list of uncomfortable symptoms. From lethargy, indigestion, colds and coughs, to allergies, eczema flare-ups and hay fevers. There are several reasons why your body needs special care during this transition:

  • Lack of regular movement during winter months leads to stagnation of bodily fluids. This especially refers to blood, lymph and digestion. The energy flow slows down as well. Can you feel it too?
  • Nature’s offerings are scant during winter months, so there is a small intake of fresh fruits and vegetables. In order to keep the body warm, we indulge in more fatty and nutrient dense foods, which often results in weight gain, sluggishness, tiredness and lethargy.
  • Winter is also the season of festivities and celebrations. Our brakes get loose, and we treat ourselves with more sweets and alcohol than we should. The liver and gall bladder work really hard to process it all…
  • Spending most of the time indoors and lack of natural sunlight is the main cause of seasonal disorders which is nothing else but hormonal disorder. Your endocrine system responds to seasonal changes and it is crucial to spend time outdoors to help endocrine glands slowly adjust to each upcoming season.
Nettle harvest – Urtica dioica

And just as nature always does, it offers us powerful medicines just in time to help us get back to balance. Wild greens are amongst the first heralds of spring. Most of them bitter and pungent in taste, with warming and stimulating effect on the body, they spring from the earth’s core with an incredible power to put winter hibernation to an end. Whether you visit the farmer’s market or you peak into your garden, park or nearest forest, you might easily discover green power sources growing around your feet. Nature serves you in the most symbolic way. 

SPRING HEALING WEEDS

Spring wild plants are often considered by gardeners as weeds, but in fact many of them are edible and medicinal. They are powerful detoxifiers, promoting liver and gall bladder purification, and helping us sprung into spring. Eaten raw in salads or in pesto, or shortly cooked to reduce the bitterness, this is the perfect time of the year to feast on weeds.  Explore other foods and practices to help you navigate the spring season.

Wild garlic – Allium ursinum

WILD GARLIC

Allium ursinum, and its relative Allium tricocca, also known as wild cowleek, ramps or ramsons, actually taste like garlic, with a distinctive green freshness. Pungent, aromatic, but also sweet and juicy, wild garlic is a fantastic cleansing plant supporting the kidney, intestinal and liver detox. It is a natural antibiotic and imunomodulator, just what we need in spring to fight off seasonal ailments. It is commonly used in atherosclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and for uterine health. 

Though all parts of the ramson are edible throughout the growth season, the young shots in early spring have that recognisable strong pungent taste and have strongest medicinal properties. The plant is best used fresh, raw in salads or in a pesto, as it looses most of its medicinal properties when exposed to heat.

CHICKWEED 

Stellaria media is widely found in gardens where it is considered as weed. During warmer months it forms a fragrant green carpet, keeping at bay other weeds from invading the area. During spring, chickweed shots are sweet and juicy, full of minerals, including potassium and calcium. With its mild taste it can be served in salads, as a garnish or made into a delicious pesto. 

DANDELION

Taraxacum is s fantastic weed to start with if you are at the very beginning of discovering plant medicinals in your garden. With numerous varieties, and widely distributed habitat, dandelion cannot be missed. It is a true vitamin and mineral bomb, bursting with vitamin A and C, potassium, phosphorus, iron… It is a traditionally used herb for body remineralisation, restoring hormonal balance, lowering blood sugar levels, in rheumatoid arthritis…

Pick young dandelion leaves before flowering as these are less bitter and can be used raw, while older leaves can be shortly boiled or brewed into a tea. Flower shots are used as a medicinal tea for respiratory system.

NETTLE

Urtica dioica is the queen of all weeds. It is one of the strongest blood purifiers and blood tonics, and it has been used since ancient times in liver and gall bladder imbalances, for sleeping issues, pancreas disorders, indigestion, and for respiratory system disorders, just to name a few. 

Swedish scientist Abbe Kuenzie states that the nettle is such a powerful plant that if it didn’t have the stinging hairs, insects and animals would eat it and eradicate the specie. Just a thought to have if you get stung… 😉

Dandelion – Taraxacum officinale

WILD GREENS PESTO

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 generous handfuls of greens
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic (omit if using wild garlic)
  • Extra virgin olive oil – start with 1/4 cup, then add as needed
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

METHOD:

Wash the sunflower seeds in a colander and let them dry a little. In a dry skillet, toast the sunflower seeds over medium heat. Keep stirring back and forth, preventing the seeds from burning. When they turn golden in colour, remove from heat and transfer into a small bowl.

Put the oil, garlic and lime juice in a food processor and whizz until a smooth emulsion forms. Add toasted sunflower seeds, roughly chopped greens, salt and black pepper and process to desired consistency. I prefer a slightly chunkier texture, but you might prefer a smoother version. We are all different, right?! 😉 If the mixture seems too dry, add more olive oil as this is dependent on the type of greens you’re using. Adjust the seasoning to your taste and likings. 

Wild Weeds Pesto

Tips:

  • Nothing beats the traditional way of preparing pesto: a lengthy process of finely chopping the ingredients then mixing them with olive oil in a mortar and pestle. A truly meditative and grounding practice worth trying once in a while. Until then, a food processor will do.
  • Add 1/4 cup nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavour or the same amount of organic hard cheese for the real deal. 
  • Top with seaweeds for some extra nutrient boost.

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