SPRING PESTO // elspeth

I should really be in bed. But quickly: start looking for the plant below, and you'll realize it's everywhere. My friends Audra and Deb pointed it out to me; it's called garlic mustard, and once you taste a leaf, you'll understand why. Apparently in 17th century Britain it was served with salt fish to give it some flavor, and it's a good source of vitamins A and C. 

To collect it, we took a walk down the road to Bound Brook and found a bunch at the very end. Of course when I got home I realized it's all over my yard! And on the way to school! And on the hill by the library! Yeah, it's one of those plants. Deb and Audra took the leaves home and whizzed them into a traditional pesto with Parmesan, garlic, oil, pine nuts, and garlic—but with garlic mustard leaves instead of basil. 

We had it on pasta, I've been eating it on bread, and tomorrow I plan to use it to top baked haddock. Happy spring, friends.


Play with this. Think of it as an outline. Almonds and pine nuts work, too. Also: Deb says the flavor of the leaves gets stronger, in a good way, once they flower. We've probably got a week or two left, depending on the heat. Now's the time!

4 cups garlic mustard leaves
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon lemon juice
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup olive oil

Pulse together the greens, walnuts, cheese, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a food processor. Then, with the motor running, slowly pour in the oil. Serve on pasta, toast, or as a veggie dip or a topping for fish.


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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.