garlic mustard pesto

weeds: if you can’t beat them, eat them! (make pesto)


Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata):

We’ve got a lot of it. Too much of it, really, so this year I’m enjoying it in as many ways as possible.

Garlic Mustard is found in forests and forest edges. Pick the leaves when they are young from the base of the plant. Or pull the entire root out of the soil and pick off the most tender leaves to control regrowth. Savour the garlic fragrance when you rub a leaf between your fingers!

Garlic Mustard is often considered invasive and undesirable in North America because it interferes with soil health, and we apparently lack the plant-eating insects that control it in Europe. However, in the UK, it is a culinary herb.

My friend Robin was in town before the plants went to flower, so we spent the weekend picking and using the leaves everywhere we could.

The heart-shaped leaves look gorgeous with chives in a frittata.


For dinner, we grilled fresh fish stuffed with lemon, garlic, fennel leaves and garlic mustard.


For pesto, I use a standard basil pesto recipe and simply substitute the basil with half mustard garlic leaves and half Italian parsley leaves. There are as many pesto recipes as there are chefs, so feel free to adapt your own. Over the years, this one has become my tried-and-true favourite and it freezes well, too.

Toasting the pine nuts makes a huge difference; toast for about two minutes in a lightly oiled skillet over medium heat, stirring often. Caution: they can quickly go from brown to burnt.


Garlic Mustard (or Basil) Pesto

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, washed and patted dry OR (1 cup each of garlic mustard leaves and flat-leafed parsley leaves)
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or a combination of Parmesan and Romano)
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • salt and pepper to taste

Put leaves, garlic and pine nuts into the bowl of a food processor. Combine at low speed, and with motor running, pour in olive oil in a steady stream.

Pour into a bowl and stir in grated Parmesan. Add salt and pepper to taste. Best used immediately. (on pasta, on grilled chicken, whisked into scrambled eggs, on pizza…)

Pesto can be frozen in an air-tight container for up to 3 months, but make sure to drizzle a little olive oil over the top to prevent freezer burn. I freeze it in small 1-serving glass containers for easy access throughout the year, although ice cube containers work equally well.

Books I Love: 

Foraged Flavor, Tama Matsuoka Wong with Eddy Leroux