Garden Pesto

I adore pesto!

Pasta and pesto,  pesto added to tomato and mediterranean dishes for flavour, baked chicken breasts stuffed with pesto… I love it.   So it has been my intention to try and create my own for sometime.  But oh dear, the basil finissimo stayed very finissimo, and most plants became the diet of slugs.  So how do you make pesto without basil?


Earlier in the year, I came across some foragers’ recipes and wild garlic pesto featured a lot.  However, there were some other suggestions making use of nettles and borage.  Having munched on nasturtium leaves, now free from the black aphid they suffered from earlier in the year (I cut the whole lot back, used it as mulch and it grew again, pest free), it occurred to me that their peppery flavour would make a good addition to pesto.  Rocket pesto has made the supermarket shelves and nasturtium is not unlike the flavour of rocket.

So, I got myself a container and set forth to the great wilderness that it is our garden with the intent of the second kitchen experiment of the week – Garden Pesto.

I don’t recommend most of my cooking experiments, for example, overcooking your oatcakes makes them very biscuity, but there is that smoked, burnt taste that smarts on the tongue.  Don’t do it, yesterday’s lunch plans had to be amended.  But garden pesto, I fully recommend.  In fact, it’s very more-ish and you’ll even want to eat it straight out of the jar, if it even makes it that far.

So here’s how the experiment went, let’s call it a recipe:


One large sandwich box of mixed edible leaves

Be as creative as you want, but I used nasturtiums, borage (don’t be put off by the furry prickles), young lemon balm leaves (I also recently cut this back as it was drowning out its companions), young dandelion, young perpetual spinach and basil (one little sprig made it).

Be careful when picking not to accidentally include non-edibles.  It’s quite easily done.

Admire the pea-like seeds of the nasturtiums.  You’ll harvest these later for pickling – a good caper substitute.

Admire the beautiful star-shaped flower of borage too.  If you like, you could pick a couple of these for decoration later, but today I didn’t.

Gather and prepare additional ingredients:

One large clove of garlic – roughly chopped

About 25 g of pine seeds

About 4 tablespoons of grated parmesan

Throw the garlic, pine seeds, parmesan and leaves together in a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped.


Salt and pepper

Juice of half a lemon

About 4 tablespoons of oil.  I used extra virgin olive oil, but many recipes suggest rapeseed oil

Process again, using a pulse setting (you don’t want a smoothie, a little bit of texture is good)

You should experiment with quantities, as tastes differ.  This variant was quite subtle in flavour, but distinctly lemony.

Scoop into a jar and place in the fridge until needed.  (I have no idea how long it would last – that’ll be another experiment for the future).

Go for a run

On returning, add the chilled pesto to your favourite dish.


This dish comprises gluten-free pasta and fresh garden pesto with breast of free-range chicken. The broccoli spears were steamed directly on top of the chicken and pesto mix; I’m all for one pan cooking.

There was enough for three, but it served two – we had second helpings.  It’s ok, we had burned calories to replace.

Let me know if you try this, or any variant of it.  Keen to know if you enjoy it as much as we did.


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