Where the Wild Things Are + Backwoods Pesto
Real talk: anyone else worry about how prepared you are for a zombie apocalypse? Anyone? You're lying if you say no. Not a day goes by that I lament my lack of survival skillz. I have seriously considered signing up for a bow-hunting class, but then I think that in the new world I would be better off if I learned how to paint myself to look like a tree stump and only turn off half my brain when I sleep like I hear dolphins can do.
So I compromised and went tramping through the woods with a few new friends to learn about what I can eat in the wild. Ryan and I met up with Trish and Rebecca out at Trish's mom's farm and they took us on a hike through their gorgeous property. We actually went in the hopes of finding some morel mushrooms, alas we could not. However, we did not leave empty handed! Rebecca taught us how to spot all kinds of other wild edibles.
We found lots of wild things!
Ryan and I learned a TON and had a great time outdoors enjoying the beautiful weather. Did you know any variety of mint will have a square stem?! and that you can turn dandelions into a delicious jelly? More on that little tidbit later. Or that you can turn a common woodland "weed" into a delicious pesto?! FFWHHAAATT?!?! Yes, it's true. And I did it. And it was yuuuummm.
You can find garlic-mustard in the spring and summer growing on the forest floor. It is characterized by it's heart shaped, serrated leaves and tiny crown of white flowers. In the picture above, it is the plant on the far left. Do you know what the craziest thing is? DO YOU?! Garlic-mustard is an invasive species that was introduced to North America by early settlers. So you should probably go pick as much as you can and make thousands of pounds of backwoods pesto to give to all your friends.
Rebecca and Trish told us that they had used the garlic-mustard plant to make a pesto the night before and that it was a hit with the family, although a little bitter. When I made my version, instead of going full force on the garlic-mustard, which tastes very garlicky but yes, a little bitter, I made it with the 1/2 cup of garlic-mustard leaves that we had collected and filled in the rest with spinach. The results were very garlicky, cheesy and flavorful but not bitter! Score!
Now, do not expect this "pesto" to taste like the normal, basil-y stuff that you're used to. It's more of a green sauce that is made in the spirit of pesto. But I promise, it's delicious! And easy to make. However, if there is in fact a zombie apocalypse and you're living off the land, I bet you won't be able to find olive oil or parmesan cheese, so you'll just have to eat it plain. But still, you can eat it. And in this post-apocalyptic world, if you happen to see a "tree stump" chewing on garlic-mustard with one eye closed, it's probably me and please don't shoot me k thanks.
p.s. You should NEVER eat something you find in the wild unless you are ABSOLUTELY 100% SURE that you know what it is and that is it edible. If you are a first-timer like I was, have someone who knows what they are doing take you out and show you the ropes before you attempt to identify something yourself.
Backwoods Pesto made with Garlic-Mustard
Makes: 1 cup pesto (enough for 3 servings of pasta)
Time: 15 minutes including prep.
1/2 foraged garlic-mustard leaves
2 cups spinach
heaping 1/3 cup of grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup walnuts
1/3 cup olive oil
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp salt
pinch of pepper
2 tbsp lemon juice
Add the parmesan, garlic and walnuts to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
Massage the spinach until it is silky-soft. You can skip this step but I think it makes the texture of the pesto better. Add the spinach and the garlic-mustard leaves to the food processor and pulse until all ingredients are finely chopped and completely incorporated.
Drizzle in olive oil and pulse until combined.
Stir in salt, pepper, and lemon juice.
Serve with warm, whole wheat pasta (I used rotini) and top with grated parmesan cheese and chopped walnuts.