Every spring we make the most of foraging for greens in the English countryside. Wild garlic is our absolute favourite and we have a fabulous recipe for wild garlic pesto. But pesto uses cheese! So we also have a recipe for vegan wild garlic pesto.
- Foraging for Wild Garlic
- Vegan Wild Garlic Pesto Recipe
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In the UK you can forage wild garlic for free as long as you just take the leaves, stems and flowers. All these parts are edible. We make it a rule never to take more food than we need as it’s nice to leave some for other people and also ensure that the plant will appear next year. We try to pick one leaf from each stem so as not to disturb the plant too much.
Foraging for Wild Garlic
Wild garlic is pretty easy to recognise and has a very definite garlicky smell. Pick a leaf and crush it in your hand – it has a wonderful scent.
A little later into the season lovely white flowers appear. These have a very mild garlic flavour – we use them to garnish dishes.
As with any foraging, you have to be 100% certain of what you are picking. Poisonous plants can grow near wild garlic. Arum maculatum, also known as Lords and Ladies, is very toxic. Apparently even putting the leaves into your mouth will result in an immediate burning sensation. It can grows worryingly close to the wild garlic. When it’s more mature it develops shiny arrow-head shaped leaves but when young, looks very similar to wild garlic.
Bluebells, or their white-flowered counterparts, which can also easily be confused with wild garlic’s white flowers, can also grow nearby. Bluebells are extremely pretty but also poisonous.
If you are the slightest bit uncertain, DON’T eat it!
Vegan Wild Garlic Pesto Recipe
Just like our standard recipe our vegan wild garlic pesto isn’t precise. We use cashew nuts but you can also use pine nuts (and weep at the expense) or pistachios. You can use a blender to mix everything together but if you’re feeling hardcore you can use a pestle and mortar.
We use nutritional yeast as a substitute for the cheese. It’s a brilliant product that is really good for you – a great source of protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals. More importantly it has a cheesy flavour, perfect for adding that umami element to the pesto amidst the creamy cashew and heavenly garlicky scent.
Bunch of wild garlic leaves (around 150g)
Handful of cashew nuts (around 150g)
Generous sprinkle of nutritional yeast flakes (we recommend couple of tablespoons if you’re measuring)
Slosh of extra virgin olive oil
Squeeze of lemon
Pinch of salt
Roughly chop the wild garlic leaves and place into a blender. Throw in the nuts and nutritional yeast flakes. We recommend adding the leaves first – to the bottom of the blender – so that the weight of the nuts helps with the grinding process.
To take advantage of the season we make industrial quantities and freeze it, so we can enjoy the scented flavour of spring throughout the year. We don’t add the oil, lemon and salt before seasoning but stir it in after it has defrosted.
Blend together until you get the texture you like – smooth or nutty – both work well.
If you want to freeze the pesto, decant it into containers and put it into the freezer. It will freeze well and will last many months.
If you want to eat the pesto straight away (or store it in the fridge for a couple of days) add the oil, lemon juice and salt.
The great thing about this recipe is that is so easily adaptable – you can mix and match ingredients. It’s the underlying gentle garlicky flavour that the wild garlic leaves produce that make this such a brilliant pesto. We’ll be foraging and freezing for as long as the season lasts.
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Absolutely brilliant. Garlic and pesto are two of my favorite food stuffs. I never knew that it grew wild like that as I am used to just picking up the cloves in a store. Good to know. I like your creativity with mashing cashews as well. The texture and flavor really lends itself to a good pesto.
Thank you! We’re big fans of garlic and pesto as well and we love foraging for wild garlic – who doesn’t love free food? The cashews add a nice creaminess to the texture and it’s a lovely, flavourful pesto that is very versatile.