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Fresh herbs for cooking is a pure delight: put some parsley on top of the potatoes, use some chives for the salad dressing, top the vegetable soup with cress and basil to the tomatoes. As the herb garden is not always at hand during the year and maybe sometimes not growing as much as you would love to, you can help yourself with herbs in oil. This is a method to increase storage life for herbs and you can create a great dish with these herbs: Pesto.
We love to serve dishes with different kinds of herb pesto on a regular basis. Our friends and relatives like to get these vitamin bombs in a jar as little gifts. You can of course use your herb pesto for pasta and noodles and nothing else, but these grounded herbs can be used to spice up dumplings, burgers and soups as well.
The most important equipment for a pesto: a hand blender.
The typical classy pesto is a basil pesto, Pesto alla Genovese, with basil, pine nuts, olive oil and Parmigiano or Pecorino. In summer we love to prepare fresh basil pesto, harvesting our basil plantation – I call it plantation, because you need a fair amount of basil. Up to know we were always lucky that basil used to grow and sprawl in a lovely way on our wind-protected balcony. We are fond to have diversity in our basil: besides classy green basil, we have red basil and some other rarer types of basil. Especially kids love to find out how these different types of herbs feel, smell and taste.
Our herb Pesto season starts with a very special pesto: wild garlic pesto. Winter in the Alps is sometimes harsh, long and sometimes rather dark. When the days start to get longer, the snow slowly disappears and hoarfrost does not greet you any more from lawns and car windows, than it is time to look at the edges of meadows and forests. We don't look for colourful blossoms, where snowdrops and spring snowflakes are nearly gone and first primroses and crocuses stretch their necks towards sun – we are looking for green leaves. Yes, we have to admit: boring green leaves are what we are striving for, yet for us it is the culinary herald of the new garden season. Soon, very soon we are able to leave aside stored vegetables when eating regional fruits and vegetables. Not very much long until we can pick parsley and chives from the garden, harvest elderflowers to make cordial and jelly and soon there will be the first berries.
For the time being we concentrate on the green leaves, which make collecting easy, as they come in great quantities – but as it is with fungi, be careful at picking the right ones – some hints concerning harvesting wild garlic can be found here: Wild Garlic Spread Recipe
When preparing the pesto you can either make loads of it or start with a small quantity, like a handful of wild garlic.
The main idea of wild garlic pesto is similar to basil pesto: herbs in oil + nuts + cheese.
The ingredients for the wild garlic pesto:
peeled sunflower seeds
mature hard cheese – like Parmesan or very ripe Emmental cheese
Wash the wild garlic and dry gently – you might want to use a salad spinner. Use a high bowl and insert wild garlic up to two thirds, insert some oil and start the milling with the hand blender. Add more and more oil and the wild garlic that is left. You could of course cut the wild garlic with a knife and use a mortar – but this fine herb oxidises rather quickly and it changes its taste and changes the colour and turns brown. That's why we put the wild garlic leaves directly into the blender and cover it in oil, so that no oxygen gets close to cut wild garlic and its fine ingredients.
I you want to store your wild garlic you can do this with this oil-herb mix and it can stay in the fridge up to one year. For a long storage life cover up the herbs with oil.
Why we don't use olive oil: 1. this special recipe is very regional, a fact we love and 2. olive oil will turn cloudy and solidify in the fridge. Those who love olive oil can use it for wild garlic pesto as well, but rather use it it up straight away and don't store it. Instead of sunflower oil you can use rapeseed oil as well.
In our recipe we don't use pine kernel – as the intensive taste of wild garlic with its garlicy note covers up and you would not be able to distinguish fine pine nut taste. The small crunchy sunflower seeds accompany wild garlic very well.
The peeled sunflower seeds and the grated cheese can be added directly to the herb-oil mixture or you can add both ingredients separately on your pasta when serving.
Those who are new to pesto or wild garlic will prefer the herb-oil mix as well as they can use it up pit by pit – adding some of the green oil to salads or using a little of the herbs for a nice cream soup, or test one of our other wild garlic recipes:
Wild garlic spread
Wild garlic Spätzle
Wild garlic is also referred to as bear's garlic, ramsons, wood garlic, bear-paw garlic, broadleaved garlic or buckrams, botanically correct it is "allium ursinum".