In A Pinch Wild Pesto

gluten-free, main course, Recipes, vegetarian / Saturday, March 5th, 2016

Spring has sprung and the first plants of the season are officially here!  At least in Tuba City, AZ.  (Have I mentioned that I love how spring comes in February out here?)  Tansy mustard is one of the very first plants to make an appearance here in Tuba, and I couldn’t wait to get working with it.  My pantry and fridge were pretty barren, but I had just enough to pull off this wild green pesto sauce.  Wild greens are a great replacement for traditional basil, and you can’t beat the cost of a free garden weed.  If you find yourself in a pinch, give this wild pesto recipe a try.

I have a large patch of wild mustard growing in my fenced yard, around my house, and in my garden bed.  Easy pickings for me.  If it’s not growing at home, chances are this tough “weed” is growing somewhere nearby.  It loves sandy soils, abandoned lots, fields, and disturbed soils.

There are hundreds of varieties of wild mustard that grow throughout the world.  While all are edible, some have fine hairs on them that may be a little prickly.  Do a little research about your particular variety before you whip up this recipe.

When collecting your mustard leaves, be sure to harvest only fresh, green leaves.  (They yellow as they age.)  I pull a few leaves from each rosette, choosing smaller leaves over the very large and older leaves.

Rosette of a young wild mustard plant
The rosette of a young wild mustard plant

Your greens will keep for a few hours at room temperature, or a few days if kept refrigerated.  Just before cooking, cleanse your greens thoroughly with water (and a vegetable spray, if you so choose.)  Some varieties of mustard attract quite a few bugs, although thankfully my tansy mustard was sans critters.

Foraging Wild Mustard Greens


The following recipe will coat 1 pound of pasta.  I prefer to eat this pesto over a bed of Spiralized Vegetable Noodles or Ancient Harvest Gluten-Free Quinoa Pasta, which can be purchased in health food stores.  If you’re unable to find this pasta at your local store, you may purchase it online through Amazon, or use whatever is available to you locally.

The powdered garlic in this recipe is purely a convenience choice, because I had no fresh garlic cloves.  If you have fresh garlic, and don’t mind the stronger flavor, replace the powdered garlic with 2 cloves of fresh garlic.

Wild mustard greens gives this pesto a slightly spicy flavor.  It’s gently detoxifying, with a very slight diuretic effect.  Really a perfect greeting for the Season of Spring and Inner Cleaning.

Wild Mustard Greens Pesto

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Wild Greens Pesto


1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1/4 tsp garlic powder

75 grams (2.5 oz or 2 cups) wild mustard greens, cleaned

3 tablespoons pine nuts

1/2 tsp sea salt

fresh black pepper to taste


  1. Boil the water for your pasta, and cook according to the package instructions.
  2. Prepare the pesto while the water boils and pasta cooks.  Place the leaves, nuts, and garlic in a food processor.  Blend to a paste.
  3. With the motor still running, very slowly stream in the olive oil until a thick paste forms.
  4. Spoon the pesto into a bowl and stir in the parmesan, sea salt, and black pepper to taste.
  5. In a large bowl, toss the pesto with 1 pound of cooked pasta.  Spoon into individual servings bowls and top with extra parmesan.  (Additionally, I like to add a few pine nuts, dried cranberries, and/or strips of sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil for sweetness and extra flavor.  This pesto would also be great with some spring asparagus.)


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