Forage: Wild Garlic Pesto

cover photo for wild garlic pesto article

The Wild Garlic is out!
Foraging is so immensely satisfying, it’s impossible to forage for ingredients and not come away feeling at one with nature. The combination of interacting with nature in a very tangible way, living in tandem with the seasons and getting stuff for free is a real thrill. I’m also loving seeing all the spring buds and flowers coming out and plundering the park for wild garlic is a good excuse to get out of the house.

I’ve just finished up a second batch of wild garlic pesto this week, which will go in the freezer and keep me going for the year. Last year’s efforts were extremely well-received – pasta salad with a few spoons of this is now one of my favourite meals – and I still actually have an emergency tub from last year in the bottom of the freezer! It last ages because it’s so strong that you only need a small bit to make up a whole meal.

I’ve been using Donal Skehan’s wild garlic pesto recipe, which can be found HERE

You only need 4 ingredients:
Wild garlic leaves, pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan.

Wash and dry the leaves and weigh them out; rather than worrying about collecting “enough” wild garlic leaves, I just altered the other ingredients to proportionally match whatever amount of leaves I ended up with.

Blitz them up in a food processor (I love my Nutribullet and I’ve been trying hard to find as many different uses for it as possible, because single-use kitchen gadgets are a curse). Then decant it into a container/jars/tubs/whatever and cover with a layer of olive oil to seal it off from the air, making it last longer and to stop it oxidising and changing colour.

Freezing

The pesto will last for a good while in the fridge, but I’d recommend freezing it in small amounts so it can last throughout the year. This year I’m freezing everything in jars. Last year I used mainly tupperware containers and trying to clean the smell of the garlic out of them after so many months was a herculean effort. The stuff I put in glass jars was much easier to clean out.

Comparison of an unfrozen jar and frozen jar of wild garlic pesto

I also tried out freezing some of the pesto in an ice-cube tray, so that it was in easy to defrost individual portions. A great idea, but I prefer to have a larger amount than that in the fridge ready to go at any given time. Don’t really know why I wasn’t mad on this as a system, as it definitely did work so you should give it a go!

If you’re wary of using glass jars for freezing (as I was until very recently and still am to a certain degree) you can absolutely freeze things in jars, you just have to be a bit more careful:

  • Don’t fill the jars the whole way up, leave a bit of room at the top to allow for the contents to expand when frozen.
  • Don’t throw warm jars directly into the freezer; let them cool first and put in the fridge overnight to make sure they’re extremely cold before adding them to the freezer. By lowering the temperature gradually, it stops the jars from breaking from the shock of going straight from warm to freezing.
  • Wrap them up! I’ve been wrapping all my batches of frozen jars in a tea-towel and then in a sturdy plastic bag (the Bags for Life from grocery shops). The tea towel helps, I think, to insulate the jars a bit more and make the change in temperature even more gradual. And the bag is very important because if one of your jars *was* to break, it means you wouldn’t have a freezer full of glass and pesto. Once they’re frozen I take out the tea towel, but I’ve been leaving the bags to keep the different batches together – so I’ve a bag of jars of apple sauce, a bag of wild garlic pesto, a bag of lemon curd, etc etc.
  • Side note: when you freeze olive oil it turns yellow. It just does that, don’t be too alarmed.

Finding Wild Garlic

Wild Garlic is growing all over parks and woodland areas at the moment and it’s easy enough to identify. The key is that is smells like garlic. If you tear a leaf it should smell very garlic-y. Later on it grows delicate white flowers which make it very easily recognisable. There are a good few patches of wild garlic growing in my local park and in the field across the road.

Wild garlic growing in the corner of the local field

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