One of the best ways to eat your herbal medicine is to make pesto.
While basil is the herb most often used for pesto, there are so many other unique and wonderful flavors. Go out into your yard or garden and see what you can find. Let’s first look at some plants that are exceptional for pesto and then we’ll learn the simple recipe.
These plants have a variety of medicinal benefits. However it is their high nutritional content that offers their greatest health-giving value.
Wild plants are almost always higher in nutrients than what you purchase at the grocery store. Most cultivated plants have been extensively bred and modified to look better and last longer when brought to market. This process of altering our food has greatly reduced valuable and necessary nutrients. Wild foods are still packed with all of the original nutritional goodness.
Garlic Mustard – Alliaria petiolata
Garlic mustard is one of the best plants for making pesto. It lives up to its name with a delicious garlic-like flavor. It’s also highly invasive so anyone will be very accommodating if you want to harvest it on their land.
The leaves are a good source of Vitamins A and C as well as a number of minerals. These include potassium, calcium, magnesium, selenium, copper, iron and manganese. It’s also a great source of fiber.
Parsley – Petroselinum crispum
Many people grow parsley. Although it is not a wild plant, it has long been known as offering many medicinal benefits as well as high nutrition. It’s mostly valued for a great amount of antioxidants.
Parsley is rich in vitamins, especially vitamin K. It’s also high in vitamins A and C. Parsley is one of the highest sources of calcium.
Nettles – Urtica dioica
Herbalists love nettles and usually put it at the top of the list for many medicinal benefits and nutrition. They fondly refer to nettle pesto as nesto. This is one plant that does need a bit of cooking to remove the sting before consuming. Do this by blanching in boiling water for a few minutes and then placing in cold water for a few minutes to retain the bright green color. You can then squeeze out the excess water and add it to the pesto recipe.
This nutritious powerhouse contains a great deal of protein and iron. It is also a rich source of calcium, potassium, zinc, magnesium, manganese, copper, selenium, phosphorus, silica, cobalt, chromium as well as fiber and chlorophyll. Vitamins include A, C, D and K. That’s quite a list!
Dandelion Greens – Taraxacum officinale
Dandelions are one of the most common plants found in our backyards. They offer great value in terms of both kidney and liver medicine as well as healthy nutrients. To those of us that know about the virtues, it’s surprising that so many people spend time and effort removing them from their lawns.
The best time to consume them is in the spring. They can be eaten later in the season but will be more bitter.
Dandelion leaves are a favorite source of iron and calcium. The leaves are also a good source of potassium and fiber.
Chickweed – Stellaria media
Chickweed is a delicate little plant that prefers to flourish in the cooler spring and autumn months. You can usually find it in open lawns under the cover of a tree. Eaten fresh it tastes like corn.
Like most wild greens, chickweed is high in vitamins and minerals, in particular, iron and zinc. It’s a cooling and moistening remedy that’s useful for hot, dry conditions.
Raspberry Leaves – Rubus idaeus and related wild species
There are many different species of raspberry, any of which can be used for high nutrition. Minerals include calcium, iron and potassium. Vitamins include A, C and E.
Raspberry leaves are most notable for high antioxidants and supporting women’s health.
Violet Leaves – Viola Spp.
Violets almost seem too beautiful to eat. But if you find them in abundance, go for it. They’re highly nutritious and some species are even a bit sweet. The leaves offer a good healthy source of vitamins A and C.
Lambs Quarters – Chenopodium album
Lamb’s quarters has a very high nutritional value. It contains vitamins A and C and many minerals. It’s an excellent source of calcium, phosphorus, iron and even protein.
Lamb’s quarters is a bit like spinach. They both contain a compound called oxalic acid which gives that hint of sour. Too much oxalic acid can interfere with absorption of calcium. So similar to spinach, only eat the raw greens in moderate amounts.
To Make Herbal Pesto
Combine the following ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth:
- 2 cups of any herbs mentioned above
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic
- ¼ cup of nuts or seeds (walnuts, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, pistachios)
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese
- Salt to taste
Use pesto to top pasta, fish, pizza, sandwiches, crackers, bruschetta, sliced cucumber, sliced tomato or use as a vegie dip. Use right away or store in the refrigerator or freezer.
Feel free to leave any comments or questions below. If you would like to learn more about herbal medicine, check out the Home Herb School at www.homeherbschool.com