The warming spring weather has transformed the our winter landscape into a field of verdant green. Lush and vibrant, a cornucopia of plump, newly invigorated wild greens are on offer, from dandelions, wild chives, mustards, nettles and chickweed. These tasty fresh greens may be weeds, but they are some of my favourite wild edibles and they are packed with so many nutrients they are also a literal medicine, cleansing and detoxifying our blood and organs, boosting our immune system, supporting digestion, and reducing inflammation.
Personally I just love their flavours, which vary between bitter (Dandelion) to sharp (Mustards) to mild, nutty and slightly sweet (Chickweed & Miner’s Lettuce) to tart (Curly Dock). You can use them alone (Dandelion is my all time favourite) or in combinations of whatever plants you find on hand in your backyard or neighborhood.
And combined with toasted nuts or seeds, some piquant Parmesan Reggiano cheese and oodles of garlic and olive oil – they make a mean pesto. I adore pesto as a dip on crackers but it can also be dolloped and swirled into soup, and it makes a tasty, fragrant dressing for roasted vegetables. And wild pestos are easy to make – just pile it all into the food processor and give a good whir. Best thing of all, pesto needs no cooking at all, which means none of their essential nutrients are lost – and they are perfect for the lighter fresher meals of spring and summer.
All wild greens are brimming with essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants,and omega-3 fatty acids that are so depleted in our domesticated food supply. Plants like Nettle, Dandelion and Curly Dock, are also well-known for their ‘tonic’ qualities (which help to restore and invigorate all the systems of the body) and their yogic benefits are many. According to Dr. David Frawley in his article Herbs for the Practice of Yoga tonic plants “increase physical energy, stamina, musculoskeletal function, circulation and coordination” and contain nervine properties which act on the nervous system, calming the mind for meditation, stimulating concentration, perception, clarity.
Yoga teacher and herbalist Emily Perry write “ tonic herbs go hand in hand with yoga practice; they can help us repair our bodies after injury, reduce wear and tear from our regular practice and may help prevent injury. Tonics build radiance, vitality, and vibrancy…they calm the fight or flight response when we are overworked, or increase our liveliness when we are in an energetic slump. Tonic herbs bring stability to our emotional lives by giving us roots, sustaining our boundaries and cultivating harmony and resilience.”
And while it seems a bit woo, consider that they may even contain a vitalizing healing energy known in Ayurvedic tradition as Soma. Soma is a life-giving essence that, as Dr. Frawley writes, “ is found mainly wild plants freshly picked. Ayurveda always considers that the fresh juice of the plant has the strongest healing properties. This is because it contains the most Soma.”
But aside from the touted plethora of physical and emotional benefits of tonic plants what I love most about wild green pesto is that it is exactly that – wild. It provides a rare opportunity to eat outside a system in which food may be labeled “all natural” – but it is anything but.
So when you harvest and prepare and taste the wild flavours of this pesto, remember to give thanks to that deeper mystery which drives life from the ground, miraculously fusing sunlight, water and stardust into delicious, vitalizing green sustenance.
Vitalizing Wild Green Pesto
- 3 & 1/2 cups of wild greens (Dandelion, Chickweed, Nettle, Wild Mustard etc.)
- 3/4 cup of extra virgin oil (avocado oil also works nicely, but less flavor)
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- 1/4 cup of roasted (or raw) nuts or seeds
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese (or more if you like a cheesy flavour)
- Place greens in the bowl of your food processor.
- Whiz until the mixture is well chopped.
- Add nuts/seeds and process again until finely chopped.
- With the motor running, slowly pour the oil through the feed tube.
- Then add cheese (you can also add cheese later after processing if you want a chunkier pesto, but be sure cheese is well grated)
- Season with sea salt and pepper, to taste.