Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Garlic Mustard Pesto

Ingredients used for recipe. Cost of ingredients approximately $10 + $8 for pine nuts = $18

I have been removing Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) from the Don Valley ever since I got involved in stewardship about 8 years ago. Normally we dispose of it in the garbage because you can't compost it (the seeds can survive this process). Some research on the plant indicates that it was introduced to North America from Europe for use as a culinary herb. Apparently you can use the leaves in green salad. The leaves add a tangy, garlicky taste.

At a recent stewardship outing, one of my volunteers brought a recipe for Garlic Mustard pesto. Since I had never made pesto before I decided to give it a try. Here is the recipe:

1 cup Garlic Mustard leaves
3 tbsp ground Garlic Mustard taproot (roots I collected were too woody)
1 cup basil leaves
3/4 cup parsley
2 cups pine nuts or walnuts
1 1/4 cups olive oil (used only 1/2 cup)
1/3 cup miso (substituted tofu)
1 1/2 cups olives (forgot to add these)
4 cloves garlic

Remove leaves and roots. Wash thoroughly. Blend all the ingredients in a food processor and this results in four cups of pesto.

Roots and leaves of Garlic Mustard

So here is what happened. I collected 3 large plants from our latest weeding expedition. When buying the ingredients, I was shocked to find that pine nuts are absurdly expensive at almost $5 per 100 grams. So I opted to get half walnuts and half pine nuts. Also, I couldn't find Miso at the supermarket. I vaguely recalled that miso is a soybean based product so I took a gamble and bought tofu instead. If I try the recipe again I will scout out the specialty food shops first.

I don't have a food processor so I made do with a hand held blender and a mixing bowl. This seemed to work OK. The plants I collected gave me enough leaves but I found that the large plants produce a very woody taproot. So it was almost impossible to cut or chop. So the lesson is to use a lot of smaller, more tender roots. The recipe calls for 1 1/4 cups olive oil which seems like a lot so I cut that back to 1/2 cup.

It took about an hour to put everything together. In the end I somehow forgot to add the olives but this didn't seem to matter. It looked like pesto and tasted like pesto, although a strong garlic taste which I guess make sense. With all the ingredients it might be a little hard to taste the Garlic Mustard ingredients but at least I know that it can be used.

The thing is we removed several hundred plants from our restoration site so that makes for enough Garlic Mustard for about a 100 litres of pesto. So we may have to go on bagging the stuff until I can find more recipes.

Finished product. Use as an appetizer spread or with pasta


Marnie said...

I like the new cooking-blog format. Can't wait to see what you'll make with dog-strangling vine ...

Unknown said...

Miso is pretty cheap and can be found in Chinatown East or West grocery stores.
Was the taste that different from basil pesto?

Anonymous said...

Just got back from Houston. Apropos of your pine nut comment, I have used them for years and I agree that they are expensive here. In Houston however they are dirt cheap as the pinyon pine is a native plant. Considered smuggling some back but there is probably a rule against it.