Mixed Green & Herb Pesto

· kale, arugula, basil, edible weeds ·

June 15, 2015 17 Comments

I want to talk to you about pesto today, specifically about breaking any sort of pesto rules that may exist out there and treating it like a blank canvas for turning herbs and greens into saucy goodness.

But before we get to that, commmmon over for a little photo-tour of the garden with some exciting updates. Last week was pretty rainy and besides the whole rain-on-camera thing, it was a pretty perfect week for a photoshoot. If you’re new, I posted garden updates here and here, so feel free to check them out to see the progress!

Kale Garden | http://fromthelandweliveon.com

WIN: KALE!! I planted 3 different varieties – white russian (pictured above), lacinato, and scarlet – and they’re all strong, beautiful, and not eaten by insects. I totally didn’t expect that the bugs would let me have the kale…so thanks, bugs!

FAIL: The bugs weren’t so kind with the swiss chard and ate pretty much all of it! I planted a second sowing in a sunnier spot to see if it would be more bug-resilient there.

Peas | http://fromthelandweliveon.com

WIN: PEAS! They’re loving their DIY string trellis, are now taller than I am, and are starting to flower! The fava beans are also making some teeny weeny pods. W00T!

FAIL: Does anyone know why cucumbers get stuck in the little sprout phase? They’re so.slow.to.grow….giddy up, cukes! I want pickles.

Radishes | http://fromthelandweliveon.com

WIN: RADISHES!!! Most spring radish varieties take around 30 days from seed to harvest, so when you know that it’ll be about a month before another plant will take up a certain space, radishes are the way to go. They make a great companion for other veggies, such as zucchini, where they’re said to repel the squash vine borer and also provide shade for the base of the plant to keep the soil from drying out. I did about 5 sowings, 1 week apart and they’re still going strong. The Flamboyant radish (pictured above) has been my fav, and the malaga radish, a close second.

FAIL: Purple plum radishes.

Herb Garden | http://fromthelandweliveon.com

WIN: CILANTRO!!! It’s my all-time favourite herb and it’s so cute, fragrant, and productive. I get an occasional whiff of it just walking through the garden and it’s the perfect olfactory reminder of why I’m doing all of this. Also… I let one of those yucky purple plum radishes go to seed and it made the most beautiful flowering monster plant. Maybe the pods will taste better than the roots.

FAIL: I’m kinda disappointed with our basil situation. The leaves are turning brown and the basil plants just keep on making flowers, ignoring all of my pinching off efforts.

Opalka Tomato | http://fromthelandweliveon.com

WIN: OH hey there, Opalka! The tomato plants are super lively and are already setting beautiful clusters of fruit.

FAIL: Waiting for the tomatoes. It’s torture. I want them now.

Lamb's Quarters and Wood Sorrel | http://fromthelandweliveon.com

WIN: GOOD WEEDS! Lamb’s quarters and wood sorrel are abundant in my garden, and while they can be annoyingly weedy, they’re also pretty awesome to eat. I see little bits of purslane too which I’m excited for.

Wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) is not closely related to regular sorrel, but shares its sour flavour due to the presence of oxalic acid. It’s delicious, and perfectly fine to eat in small amounts, but be careful in consuming large amounts of it, especially raw, as it can be toxic to susceptible individuals. I like to use the delicate tangy leaves as a garnish.

Lamb’s Quarters (Chenopodium album), also sometimes called wild spinach or goosefoot (amongst other names) is closely related to quinoa and is interchangeable with spinach in the kitchen. Some even say that it’s more spinachy than spinach, when cooked, but I haven’t gone there yet to confirm that sentiment. It also contains oxalic acid and should be consumed in moderation, especially if raw.

A note on eating weeds: While many weeds are perfectly safe and even nutritious to eat, take great care in identifying, safely harvesting, and preparing uncultivated plants. I’ve had sufficient guidance from experienced foragers to be confident in identifying these plants on my own but please don’t use my pictures as an identification resource. Seek the guidance of an experienced forager or herbalist in your area if you’re interested in learning how to harvest and eat wild plants. DO NOT eat something if you can’t positively identify it, are not sure about which parts to eat, or how to prepare it.

FAIL: BAD WEEDS – I’m looking at you, spiky ones, that keep me from walking around bare foot. I’m looking at you, vine-y ones, that strangle my other plants and seem to grow back within exactly a day of being pulled. What’s up with that?

Herbs for Pesto | http://fromthelandweliveon.com

So lets talk about pesto! You’ve probably seen a recipe of some sort on every blog, and I initially felt that I had nothing to add to the conversation, but I think I might… I won’t tell you how to make the perfect pesto because I don’t believe that such a thing exists. What I do believe is that you can do whatever you want. That’s my recipe: do whatever you want.

For the pesto you see here, I went out and pulled about a 1/4 lb of greens from the garden. There was kale, bolted arugula (extra spicy but great for pesto!), basil tops from my disappointing plants, some radish flowers that I used as a garnish and the weeds mentioned above – lamb’s quarters and wood sorrel. Here’s a totally non-exhaustive list of other greens and herbs that I think would be great:

  • spinach
  • beet greens
  • sorrel
  • swiss chard
  • carrot tops
  • radish greens
  • collard greens
  • oregano
  • parsley
  • cilantro
  • thyme
  • mint
  • anise hyssop
  • etc, etc, etc…..

Traditionally pesto is made with basil, pine nuts, hard cheese (i.e. Parmesan), and olive oil. It’s delicious. But sometimes we don’t have a bucket of basil….and holy shit pine nuts are expensive!…and sometimes we don’t want cheese (did I just say that?). I might disappoint my Italian neighbours on this one, but I really see no need to be traditional here!

For this version, a one-off since I never really make pesto the same way, I used a mostly sunflower seeds, a small amount of pine nuts, and a few brazil nuts. I skipped the cheese, and added some lemon juice. Adding lemon juice helps preserve the pesto for an extra few days, makes it creamier, and is something I would usually use in whatever I’m using pesto for anyway. My current recipe is shared below, but I want to challenge you to make your own version and let me know in the comments below what you used and how it turned out!

There will be plenty of pesto-loving recipes over the summer, and I’ll be back with one of my faves later this week!

Happy Monday, friends! xo

Garden Pesto | http://fromthelandweliveon.com

Mixed Green & Herb Pesto

Yield: ~1 cup


  • 4oz (~9 cups) of mixed greens and herbs (I used kale, arugula, basil, lamb's quarters, and wood sorrel)
  • 2 Tbsp. sunflower seeds
  • 1 Tbsp. pine nuts
  • 4-5 Brazil nuts
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. salt + more to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice + more to taste
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil + more for storage


  1. In a food processor, pulse the herbs until coarsely chopped. I stuffed my 9-cup food processor to the max, but if you have a smaller one, you may have to do this in batches and then combine the chopped herbs before adding other ingredients.
  2. Add the nuts, salt, and lemon jucie and process until creamy.
  3. Empty into a bowl and stir in the olive oil (processing olive oil at a high speed can change its flavour, so I prefer to stir it in).
  4. Taste and adjust salt and lemon juice, if needed.
  5. Store in a jar, topped off with olive oil to prevent surface oxidation.
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  1. Reply

    janet @ the taste space

    June 16, 2015

    Love the garden update. You win some and you lose some. My first year with kale was bug-free but they found it towards the end and definitely the second year. I haven’t seen scarlet kale before. What fun! Did you plan from seed?

    • Reply


      June 16, 2015

      Thanks, Janet! Yeah, it’ll all about experimenting and observing this year. I totally expected to lose some, but you don’t know until you try what works, right? The bugs will probably find my kale too, but I’ll enjoy it all to myself while it lasts :) The scarlet kale is beautiful…I’ll have to post a picture on IG. I planted greens, tomatoes, roots, peppers, peas, beans, cucurbits, etc.. from seed and purchased herbs, flowers, strawberries, etc…

  2. Reply


    June 16, 2015

    I love looking at what other people are growing! You know with the basil, I find it does much better inside. I grow all my basil hydroponically with lights, for some reason they do much better with the artificial light. But who needs basil with this delicious looking pesto. I love that you included some of the weeds in there too. Are you having any luck with the gerkins and ground cherries. I didn’t plant any ground cherries this year, but they are growing all over the place…guess they are good self seeders.

    • Reply


      June 16, 2015

      That’s interesting…with the basil. Do you start it from seed? I bought mine and I think hangin’ out in the garden center may have forced them to bolt prematurely…not sure. I just planted another round of really young plants. Will see what happens. I have tomatillos but no ground cherries. Those seem to be doing well! The gherkins, like the rest of the cukes, seem to be stuck. Maybe it needs to warm up a little more before they take off. I’d love to see what’s in your garden :) Can you do a tour on your blog?

  3. Reply

    Sarah | Well and Full

    June 16, 2015

    These photos are so incredibly stunning. You’re so lucky to have your own garden, I’m terribly jealous!!

    • Reply


      June 16, 2015

      Thanks so much, Sarah! It’s my first year and yeah feeling so lucky to finally have some space! If you have a little sunny balcony or something, you can play around there as well :) It’s surprising how much you can get out of that!

  4. Reply

    lynsey | lynseylovesfood

    June 17, 2015

    your garden!! such a beauty. i love all that you have grown (win or fail). I am bit of a pesto rule breaker too and love your combo (pine nuts are expensive!). xo

  5. Reply


    June 18, 2015

    Beautiful!!! I love the mix! Jealous of your garden!

  6. Reply


    June 28, 2015

    We’re on the same page! I recently through a farmer’s bounty into the food processor, as a way to promote a CSA share. I skipped any type of nuts or seeds bc my fella’s mom was on a special diet, but I definitely want to try using sunflower seeds in the future. Instead, I used radishes for a little bite and texture.

    Your garden looks great! Keep up the good work!

    Here’s my own pesto experiment-

    • Reply


      June 28, 2015

      Ha! totally :) Thanks so much for sharing your post and love your version with the radishes.

  7. Reply


    July 21, 2015

    Sorry that your basil plants aren’t doing too well. Agree with the others to bring your basil inside! Your garden still looks lovely. Love your outside of the box version of pesto!