Wild Garlic Pesto Recipe
Updated: Jun 11
Wild garlic, also known as ramps or Allium ursinum, has a long history of culinary use, including its incorporation into pesto recipes. Wild garlic grows in the wild and is native to the UK, Europe and parts of Asia. Its leaves have a distinct garlicky flavour and are highly aromatic.
The use of wild garlic in pesto can be traced back to traditional cuisines in the regions where it naturally grows. In particular, it has been commonly used in Italian and Eastern European cooking. In Italy, wild garlic pesto is known as "pesto d'aglio orsino" or "pesto di ramson" and is popular in regions like Liguria, Tuscany, and Piedmont.
Wild garlic pesto offers a unique twist to the traditional basil-based pesto, providing a pungent and fresh garlic flavour. It has gained popularity for its vibrant green color, intense aroma, and versatile uses. Wild garlic pesto can be used as a pasta sauce, spread on bread or crackers, mixed into dips, or used as a marinade for meats and vegetables.
The appreciation for wild garlic and its inclusion in pesto recipes has extended beyond its native regions. It has become sought after by chefs and home cooks worldwide for its distinctive taste and the seasonal nature of wild garlic, making it a special ingredient to be enjoyed during its limited availability.
Overall, the use of wild garlic in pestos reflects the rich culinary heritage of the regions where it grows, adding a unique and scrummy element to pesto recipes.
The ever so short Wild Garlic Season
The short wild garlic season in the UK is a much-anticipated time for foragers and food enthusiasts. Wild garlic, also known as ramps or ramsons, typically grows in woodlands, hedgerows, and damp areas across the country.
The season generally spans from late March to early May, although it can vary depending on the region and weather conditions.
During this season, the forest floors and shaded areas come alive with lush carpets of vibrant green wild garlic leaves. The distinct garlic aroma fills the air, making it easy to identify this seasonal delicacy. The leaves are the main focus of foragers as they have a mild garlic flavour and can be used in a variety of culinary preparations.
Foragers and food lovers venture into woodlands to gather wild garlic leaves, being careful to only take what they need and ensuring sustainable harvesting practices. The leaves are usually harvested when they are young and tender before the plant flowers. It's important to note that it's illegal to uproot wild garlic bulbs in the UK, as they are protected species.
The wild garlic leaves are highly versatile in the kitchen and can be used in numerous dishes. They are commonly used to make wild garlic pesto, added to salads, soups, and sauces, or used as a garnish. The leaves can also be sautéed or wilted like spinach and used as a side dish or in omelettes, pasta dishes, and risottos.
Due to its short season, wild garlic is highly sought after, and its availability in the UK is limited. Many farmers' markets, specialty food stores, and restaurants offer wild garlic during this period. Some people even plant wild garlic in their gardens to enjoy a longer harvest season.
The short wild garlic season in the UK adds a touch of excitement to the culinary scene, as people eagerly await the arrival of this deliicous and fragrant herb. It's a time to savour the freshness of this seasonal ingredient and explore the various culinary possibilities it offers. But also to use it in as many ways as possible.. Preserving and extending the season as far as is possible.
Learn more about wild foods and plants with the very best wild food and foraging books.
Wild Garlic Pesto Recipe
It's so simple to make this great accompaniment..! You can never have enough wild garlic recipes either. So here's how to make wild garlic pesto!
Couple of good handfuls of Wild Garlic leaves (about 100g)
50g Parmesan Cheese
50g Pine nuts
100 ml Olive Oil
Firstly collect your wild garlic leaves and dry them carefully. Then take your parmesan cheese and grate it on a fine grater. Fine shred your wild garlic leaves and then add to a blender, add your pine nuts, seasoning and the cheese to the blender as well and the olive oil and blend. Check and correct your seasoning.
Don't blend the pesto too much, you will want a coarse but even texture. Decant into sealable jars (I always keep my old mustard and jam jars and re-use them!), and top up with a little extra olive oil until the wild garlic pesto is completely covered. Then store in the fridge!
You can also use Garlic Mustard as an alternative to the wild garlic later in the year.
Can I use different nuts in my Pesto?
Yes! Pesto recipes traditionally call for pine nuts, but there are many other delicious nut alternatives you can use to create unique and delicious pesto variations. Here are some popular options:
Walnuts: Walnuts have a slightly bitter and earthy flavour that pairs well with herbs like basil or parsley. They're also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. This is my favourite nut to use when I do not have pine nuts.
Almonds: Almonds bring a mild and slightly sweet taste to pesto. They work well with various herbs, such as basil or corainder. You can use blanched almonds (skins removed) or keep the skins on for added texture.
Cashews: Cashews have a creamy and buttery flavour, which lends itself well to pesto. They create a smooth and rich texture. Cashews work particularly well in pesto variations with milder herbs like mint.
Pistachios: Pistachios offer a unique flavour profile, combining a slight sweetness with a hint of saltiness. They can add a vibrant green color to your pesto and work well with herbs like basil or wild rocket.
Hazelnuts: Hazelnuts have a toasty and nutty flavour that adds richness to pesto. They pair excellently with herbs like parsley, sage, or even wild garlic.
Macadamia nuts: Macadamia nuts have a buttery and creamy texture with a delicate flavour. They work well in pesto recipes where you want a more indulgent and mild taste, perhaps better with a Jack by the Hedge Pesto.
These are just a few examples, and you can experiment with other nuts based on your preferences. Feel free to combine different nuts or even use a mix of nuts in your pesto to create your own unique flavour combinations. Make your pesto your own.
How long will Wild Garlic Pesto keep?
Wild garlic pesto, like other pesto variations, can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week. However, the exact shelf life can depend on the specific ingredients used and the preparation method. To maximise its freshness and longevity, here are some tips:
Storage: Transfer the wild garlic pesto to an airtight container or jar. Make sure to fill it to the top, leaving minimal air space, as exposure to air can cause the pesto to oxidise and spoil more quickly.
Oil layer: Before sealing the container, add a thin layer of olive oil on top of the pesto. This helps create a barrier between the pesto and air, further preventing oxidation.
Refrigeration: Place the tightly sealed container in the refrigerator. The cool temperature helps slow down the growth of bacteria and extends the shelf life.
Proper handling: Always use clean utensils when scooping out the pesto. Avoid double-dipping to minimise the risk of contamination.
By following these guidelines, your wild garlic pesto should stay fresh and delicious for about one week. If you need to store it for a longer period, consider freezing it in small portions. Frozen pesto can retain its quality for up to three months.
What to eat with Wild Garlic Pesto?
Wild garlic pesto can be a versatile and delicious addition to a variety of dishes. Here are some ideas for what you can eat with wild garlic pesto:
Pasta: Toss cooked pasta, such as spaghetti, linguine, or penne, with wild garlic pesto for a quick and delicious meal. You can also add sautéed vegetables, such as cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, or courgette, to enhance the flavors.
Bread: Spread wild garlic pesto on slices of crusty bread or baguette for a delicious appetiser or snack. You can also toast the bread and add toppings like sliced tomatoes or fresh mozzarella for a tasty bruschetta.
Roasted Vegetables: Coat roasted vegetables like potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, or Brussels sprouts with wild garlic pesto before baking. The pesto adds delightful garlic notes and helps to enhance the caramelisation of the vegetables.
Grilled Meats: Use wild garlic pesto as a marinade or topping for grilled meats like chicken, fish, or steak. The pesto adds a burst of flavour and helps keep the meat moist.
Sandwiches and Wraps: Spread wild garlic pesto on sandwiches or wraps as a condiment. It works well with a variety of fillings, such as grilled vegetables, chicken, turkey, or cheese.
Salad Dressing: Mix wild garlic pesto with olive oil, lemon juice, and a bit of vinegar to create a flavorful salad dressing. Drizzle it over mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and other vegetables for a zesty salad.
Dips and Spreads: Incorporate wild garlic pesto into creamy dips and spreads. Mix it with cream cheese, Greek yogurt, or sour cream for a delicious dip for chips, crackers, or vegetable sticks.
Love cooking wild food? Check out our selection of Wild Food Cookbooks here.
Recipes that you can make with Wild Garlic Pesto
So now you have made it, you can make more delicious treats. Here are a few recipe ideas that incorporate the wild garlic pesto that you made:
Wild Garlic Pesto Pasta:
Cook your choice of pasta according to package instructions.
Toss the cooked pasta with wild garlic pesto until well coated.
Optional: Add sautéed cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, or grilled chicken for additional flavor and texture.
Serve hot and garnish with grated Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.
Wild Garlic Pesto Bruschetta:
Slice a baguette into thick slices and toast them lightly.
Spread wild garlic pesto on each slice.
Top with sliced cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and a drizzle of balsamic glaze.
Place under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese melts.
Sprinkle with chopped fresh basil and serve as a starter or light meal.
Grilled Wild Garlic Pesto Chicken:
Marinate chicken breasts in wild garlic pesto for at least 30 minutes.
Grill the chicken on medium heat until cooked through.
Serve the grilled chicken with a side of roasted vegetables or a fresh salad.
Wild Garlic Pesto Roasted Potatoes:
Preheat your oven to 220°C.
Cut small potatoes into bite-sized pieces and toss them with wild garlic pesto until coated.
Spread the potatoes evenly on a baking sheet and roast for about 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.
Sprinkle with sea salt and chopped fresh parsley before serving.
Wild Garlic Pesto Dip:
Mix wild garlic pesto with cream cheese or Greek yogurt.
Add a squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Serve as a dip with vegetable sticks, pita chips, or crackers.
One of my kids favourite wild garlic pesto recipes is when you incorporate the pesto into puff pastry twists, they are pretty fast to make.. Which is perfect, because they are pretty quick to eat too..
Wild Carlic and Cheese Puff Pastry Twists Recipe
1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed (about 250 grams)
60 grams wild garlic pesto
50 grams grated cheese (such as cheddar, Gruyère, or Parmesan)
1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)
Sesame seeds or poppy seeds (optional, for topping)
Preheat your oven to 200°C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Roll out the thawed puff pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle, about 3-4 millimeters thick.
Spread the wild garlic pesto evenly over the surface of the puff pastry.
Sprinkle the grated cheese evenly over the pesto, covering the entire surface.
Starting from one long edge, tightly roll the puff pastry sheet into a log. Once rolled, gently press the seam to seal.
Using a sharp knife, slice the log into 1.5-2 centimeter wide strips.
Take each strip and gently twist it a few times, then place it on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining strips.
Brush the twisted pastry strips with beaten egg wash, and if desired, sprinkle sesame seeds or poppy seeds on top for added flavor and texture.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until the puff pastry twists are golden brown and puffed up.
Remove from the oven and let them cool slightly before serving. They are delicious when enjoyed warm.
Wild garlic pesto is a vibrant and lip-smacking culinary delight that adds a unique twist to traditional pesto recipes. With its distinct garlicky flavour and aromatic profile, wild garlic pesto brings a burst of freshness to a variety of dishes. Whether tossed with pasta, spread on bread, used as a marinade, or incorporated into baked recipes, wild garlic pesto never fails to elevate the taste experience. Its versatility and versatility make it a versatile ingredient that can be enjoyed in numerous ways. So, embrace the captivating essence of wild garlic pesto and let its aromatic charm enhance your culinary adventures.