Weeds Gone Wild

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Yay! Spring is here! Do you want to introduce a little wildness into your life? Want to boost your vitality? Put a “spring” in your step?

Sure you do.

Here’s one easy way, PESTO.

We’re going to make “yard pesto.” It’s not hard. All the cool kids are doing it. Gather your basket or large bowl, some scissors and your sense of adventure and head on out to the edges of your non-sprayed yard looking for a few weeds minding their own business growing there. Bring the kids along, enlist their innate, not-lost wildness. It doesn’t take long, is more nutritious than anything you can buy, and it reminds us who we are. Indigenous souls interacting with our landscape in sustainable & reciprocal ways.

Onward with the pesto.

Once you’ve found the place:

1. Offer a prayer of thanks.

2. Harvest just enough while leaving plenty. (10-25%. Are others harvesting here? 10%. Is it your own patch of green goodness? 25%)  Smell the richness of the season, sing a little harvest song, do a little harvest happy dance.

3. Head inside to make pesto.

Poof! Now you’re a forager. 


Ok, but who should you be gathering from your yard?

Why are the socials filled with herbalists ecstatically posting photos of their nettle-filled baskets? First of all, because we love nettles. We can’t live without nettles (why would anyone ask us to?). We feel safe, secure and “all is right with the world” knowing we have our small (or giant) nettle patch. Nettle, the most nutrient-rich plant on the terrestrial landscape. Nettle, every part of her medicine. Nettle, the one to make nets with, fiber & clothing with. 

Ah, but this is not a love letter to nettles.

We are here to bring the wild into our kitchen, into our bellies. One of the simplest ways to nourish ourselves with the wild is by making pesto. One of the most delicious ways of nourishing ourselves with the wild is with pesto. So delicious, I usually find myself eating it out of the jar with the nearest edible delivery system (crackers or chips) or if no edible delivery system presents itself, I’m fine using a fork.

Onward with the recipe!

Greens, lots of them.


Nettles of course. I like at least half of my recipe to include nettles. Let’s say 6 handfuls. Gentle handfuls if you are unaware of how stinging nettles got her name.

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Individually harvested leaves.

Ramp leaves.  6-8 leaves would be plenty to add the garlic flavor. ONE leaf per plant, individually harvested from a large patch. Why? Read all about why here. The cliff notes; please do not harvest the whole plant, root bulb and all. While the wild patch you’ve found may look overly abundant, the plants only grow in the forest, take many years to reach sexual maturity, and chances are, someone else knows about your patch and is harvesting from it. 

Garlic 2-3 cloves if you don’t have ramps.

Perfect stage of garlic mustard.

Garlic mustard. One good handful. This abundant early spring green can also add the garlic flavor with the added bonus of bitterness. Don’t worry about overharvesting garlic mustard, this “invasive” plant will easily take over the understory if unchecked so harvest to your heart’s content. They are less bitter when harvested younger and definitely without the flowers. One good handful is plenty. 

Notice the dandelion leaf photobombing on the right.

Chickweed. 1-3 handfuls. “Mouse ear” chickweed, with its mouse ear sized leaves adds deliciousness to whatever bowl she goes in. So sweet and mild you can make a tossed salad with the tiny leaves and stems. Chock full of nutrients & cooling flavor.

Wintercress ripe for the cooking.

Wintercress. 1 handful of this broccoli looking bitter green. (You can also saute it like broccoli.) I prefer to harvest right before flower, when the plant most looks like broccoli. If you’re not used to the bitterness of the wild, go easy with this one.

Tiny heart shaped violet leaves emerging.

Violet leaf. 1 handful of this nutrient rich leaf is lovely. Ours isn’t out enough for me to include much more than a kiss. 

Basil leaf. If your ancestors demand you must add to the recipe to make it “pesto”, then by all means, please honor your ancestors and purchase some fresh leaves from the grocery store. We don’t have fresh growing yet here in the northeast. 

Olive oil. ¼-½ cup or whatever quantity your ancestors require. Want to get crazy creative? Infuse your olive oil with chopped up white pine needles beforehand for a wild piney experience.

Nuts or seeds. Pine nuts, pinon, sunflower seeds, walnuts. ¼-½ cup. Any of these will make a healthy addition to your pesto. I’ll be using some special pinon seeds I purchased from a native man in New Mexico who harvested and roasted these delicious gifts from the trees. 

Salt. To taste.

Get out your cuisinart, blender, vitamix, or mortar & pestle to do the chopping and blending of the ingredients in the following order.


Nuts or seeds first. Garlic if you’re using it, next. Greens. Olive oil, salt. 

Keep tasting and adjusting the salt. Want a little zing? Add some lemon juice. Too bitter? Add more chickweed. 

Like regular ol’ pesto, it will last a week or two in the fridge, but really, is it going to “last” that long? I don’t think so, you’ll eat it all before it can spoil. Made too much? You can freeze it for later or consider this; The best yard pesto I’ve had has been made by others. Maybe it’s like salad? It tastes better when someone else makes it because you can feel the love. 

Spread the love, share your pesto. 



I'm a researcher, educator, guest lecturer, and co-founder of Heartstone Center for Earth Essentials in Van Etten, NY.