Weed pesto recipe: Trisha Shirey

chickweed Central Texas GardenerTrisha Shirey turns common backyard “weeds” into nutritious, tasty pesto!

• Collect weeds in an area that is free from contamination of toxic chemicals.
• Avoid weeds that are near or adjacent to areas where there are pets or livestock roaming and that are close to heavily trafficked roadways.
• Pick weeds before they are flowering for best flavor.
• Wash weeds well after harvesting and give them a rinse in water that has ¼ cup of vinegar per gallon of water.
• Drain well and use them soon after harvesting for the best flavor and nutrition. Use a salad spinner to gently remove excess water from the weeds.

Weed Pesto
3 tablespoons nuts (lightly toasted walnuts, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds)
2 cloves of garlic or ½ shallot, if desired
4 to 5 cups of weeds that have been washed and well dried (Dandelion, chickweed, cleavers, lamb’s quarters, orach, purslane)
1 cup of fresh herbs for more flavor (cilantro, oregano, parsley, sorrel, savory, mint, lovage or basil or a combination of any of these
½ cup olive oil (more to get the texture you desire)
2 tablespoons lemon juice (Keeps the color bright)
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, if desired
Salt and pepper to taste

Add nuts to a food processor with the motor running and process until well chopped. Add garlic or shallot to processor with motor running. When those have formed a thick paste use a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl and add the weeds and herbs. Pulse the motor in short burst to chop them evenly. Add the oil in a slow drizzle while the motor is running. Add lemon juice, cheese if desired and season to taste.

Use this pesto as a dip with vegetables, bread or crackers or toss it with hot pasta. It can also be thinned with more olive oil and some vinegar and used as a salad dressing.

Weeds can also be chopped and added to soups for a more nutritious meal. Nettles, chickweed, and dandelions are all good additions to soup. Add weeds to a smoothie or brew with herbs for tea. Lightly sauté herbs and add them to scrambled eggs or a frittata.