I know what you’re thinking. ‘If I have to look at another weed eating recipe, I’ll scream. Or turn off my computer!’ But, wait! If there wasn’t something to this whole eat the weeds business, us world farmers wouldn’t keep harping on it. Yesterday, dandelion greens were on sale at a huge chain supermarket for $5 a lb! If you’re going to try something, try it the free and easy way: lying on your face in your yard, wondering if the neighbours can see you.
Foraging for wild food is as much a brain exercise, as it is physical. The nourishment you receive is the reward, for your patience. After the long night of winter, when your cupboards are pretty bare, and you’ve had the last stewed thing you can take, the earth hears your weary stomach and offers up a few fresh spears, filled with vitamins you can’t get from flown in bagged lettuce.
Because wild greens are incredibly nutrient dense, there is no need to experiment more than once if it’s your first time foraging. You’ll have no trouble finding dandelions in your lawn. In fact, I’m sure you’ve tried to kill them more than once. Trim the greens down to the grass, fill a bowl with about two cups and clean them in cold, salted water. I use salt to kill any little bugs, but a touch of natural soap works too. You just have to work harder to rinse them.
Chop up your greens with any herbs you fancy. I snipped sweet woodruff, parsley and garlic chives from my yard. If your yard is bare, choose a tender herb like classic basil, flat leaf parsley, or cilantro. A traditional pesto includes Parmesan cheese. Since I’m currently unable to eat cheeses, I used almonds for half my nuts, along with sunflower seeds. Toasted, they add the umami element the cheese brings.
If you don’t have a food processor, you can make this in a blender. Just add the leaves and oil first, and smaller things like garlic last. Barring that, a mortar and pestle works just fine. Roll up your sleeves and grind it!
2-3 cups washed dandelion greens, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (look for cold pressed)
juice and zest of one lemon
1/4 cup toasted and cooled almonds*
1/4 cup toasted and cooled sunflower seeds*
2 tsp fresh maple syrup
1 tsp sea salt
cracked black pepper to taste
Yield: Approximately 1.5 cups. Keep in a tightly covered glass jar for up to a week, or use some and freeze the rest into cubes.
If you’re using a food processor, just put your ingredients in and pulse until blended, scraping the sides in between. If using a blender, put the greens in with some olive oil and pulse to get them going, add nuts and garlic gradually, and keep pulsing, digging up the pureed bits at the bottom. It takes longer, but that’s how I did it! With a mortar and pestle, you’ll have to chop all your ingredients up pretty finely with a big knife to make grinding easy.
Now, what do you do with it? Pestos are mainly for pasta, but you can dress salads with it, put it on crostini, quiche, omelettes or use it as a dip for grilled meats and fish.
*You can use any type of nut you like, or chia and flax if you have nut allergies.Walnuts have more oil in them, and traditional pine nuts are always delicious. Bonus if you find them yourself.
*Feel free to add Parmesan! You will need 1/3 cup for this recipe.