sarah's own natural garden

updates from our lifestyle block – gardening, chickens, green cleaning and more

Making pesto from the garden

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Pesto recipe

Making pesto from the garden

A selection of disorderly growing greens for pesto making

I love making a mixed green pesto as it uses a variety of raw greens I know are good for me but I probably wouldn’t include in a meal unless I was having a salad or a smoothie.  And I struggle with having a green smoothie. A traditional pesto recipe uses basil, pinenuts, garlic, oil and parmesan cheese but it’s very flexible really. When I make it I swap out pinenuts for whatever cheaper option I have on hand and instead of just basil I use whatever garden greens I’ve got growing .  It’s hard to write a recipe with exact quantities because it depends on what greens you use and what your own taste preference is.  I’m still refining my pesto recipe but this should give you something tasty to work from –

  • 50g nuts – almonds, cashew or walnuts.
  • 5 cloves of sliced garlic (confit garlic works well) *
  • 2 cups of firmly packed greens – parsley, coriander, silverbeet etc **
  • olive oil
  • 1TB lime or lemon juice
  • 1TB balsamic vinegar
  • 20 g parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper

Toast the nuts and add the sliced garlic along with some olive oil and cook that slightly.  Whizz that up in your food processor***.  Add the mixed greens.  They will need to be washed, remove any obviously hardy stems and give them a quick chop up before adding them. After a few minutes, stop and check the mix, push down the nuts and greens that have worked up the sides and remove any stems that aren’t breaking down too well.  With the machine running again add the balsamic vinegar, lime juice and a few tablespoons of olive oil. Whizz it all up for a few minutes then add the parmesan cheese and keep processing until a nice paste forms.  You will probably need to add more oil as the machine is running get it to that point but add it gradually rather than all at once otherwise you end up with an overly oily mixture.


It’s not finished yet – taste.  Although I’ve given some quantities the amount of citrus juice, balsamic (or other) vinegar, salt and pepper and also the parmesan cheese you’ll need depends on what greens you used, how citric the juice was, what type of cheese you used etc. Because I usually use peppery greens (eg upland cress or rocket) I don’t add any black pepper.  If I’m using supermarket limes vs Christine’s home grown ones that will affect the amount I add.  And I’ll need to add more lime and balsamic vinegar to balance the rocket compared to a basil dominant blend which is a bit more mild.  Taste also comes down to personal preference.  I’ve tried several pesto recipes over the years and have often been disappointed when I stuck to the recipe before I realised how many factors influence the taste (as I’ve mentioned).  It can take a bit of tweaking once the pesto is blended but keep adding a bit more cheese, salt or juice until you get it to taste how you prefer.  Then write down what you did so you can re-create it. If you’ve got your own bit of garden then making your own pesto is cheaper and fresher than buying it.  Plus you can get it to taste just how you prefer.

Use it

  • As a spread on sandwiches or toast
  • Dollop a spoonful into a bowl of soup (eg pumpkin or vegetable)
  • Mix it with some plain yoghurt as a side dressing for a meal
  • Use it as the base for a pasta or noodle meal.  Freeze some to use for this.

Notes –

*I use confit garlic (thanks to Anita for the idea – I will post the method soon).  It doesn’t have the sharpness of raw garlic and you don’t have to worry about toasting it with the nuts and burning it.

this ridiculous beetroot refuses to go to seed so the leaves get used in everything

**use the greens you have growing and what you prefer to taste.  They can be the ones that are a bit eaten or raggedy so it’s a good use of the greens you want to ignore. I don’t usually make mine basil dominant (which is traditional) as I struggle to grow it for most of the year.  I use parsley, coriander, silverbeet, plantain, beetroot leaves. I also use rocket, upland cress or nasturtium leaves – these three are peppery so I just use one type and try and balance how much goes in as the peppery-ness can easily dominant the taste.

***I’ve unsuccessfully tried to use a stick blender and a small grinder to make pesto but it was only when I upgraded to a proper food processor that I could properly blend the nuts and the greens.


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