Hedgerow Pesto

3mm High Basil Crop
3mm Basil

“Mum,” asked Goldilocks, “Can we have green spaghetti for tea?  We haven’t had it for ages.”

“Ah!” I reply. “That is because as a result of some bizarre mischance our blender was irreversibly contaminated with engine oil.  I am naming no names, but it was definitely your father’s fault.”  The Man from Salford denies all knowledge of this and so our blender’s misfortune remains a mystery.  The other reason why green spaghetti or pesto is a bit of a no go at the moment is the fact our basil crop is approximately three millimetres high right now.

I have resisted buying a new blender because the processor part of the machine still works fine and is adequate for soups and houmous.  But our basil crop will grow and sooner or later I’ll get the urge to make pesto.  Trying to do all things sustainably I should’ve probably gone out and bought a huge pestle and mortar, but my eco-halo ever wonky, I went to Argos and bought a mini electric blender.

I was determined not to compound this act of worshipful consumerism at the alter of Argos by buying supermarket basil.  Our slope may not look much like a garden yet but it yields a rich supply of organically grown weeds.  My solution lies in the plant below, garlic mustard or jack-by-the hedge.  It’s edible leaves can be used in salads, wilted like spinach or ground into pesto.


If you’re collecting wild plants for food, make sure you collect them from areas that you know are not treated with pesticides.  Pick off insects and wash the plants thoroughly.

To make Hedgerow Pesto, whizz together (or pound in your huge pestle and mortar if you are a better person than me!)  100mls nut oil, two to three plump garlic cloves, a heaped teaspoon of sea salt, three large handfuls of washed jack-by-the-hedge and a handful of hazel nuts. 

 If you live in a place called Hazlehurst you may well have collected and stored plenty of nuts from last autumn, if not (ahem!) like me you can buy them from your local health food store. 

The other wild goody on the canal right now is watercress.  The best place to look is in the overflows, where there is generally a constant but gentle flow of water.  Here’s a nice little patch Willow and I found on our Sunday walk.  I was torn between letting it grow more and the fear that if I didn’t take it someone else would.  I left it, but then three hours later went back for it!

watercress in the overflow As I am feeling very generous with my pictures this week I though I’d treat you to this pic of hedgerow promise to come.  This crab apple over looks the fields at the back of the house.  This particular field seems to be permanently flooded now, but this was not always the case, and may be the result of particularly wet recent winters and summers.

crab apple at Sustainable Living Project    

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2 comments to Hedgerow Pesto

  • If you are lucky enough to live near a wild garlic wood that makes excellent pesto too :)

  • Great article – thank you. I love using food as ‘medicine’ and it seems that Jack by the hedge has some great properties, as well as tasting fabulous. Also, I love finding food for free. Like Bird, we have a garlic wood practically outside our back door and loads of the jack by the hedge too. We have basil in the greenhouse, but it’s only a few mils high – it seems to be very late this year.
    Thanks for sharing your recipe; I will have a go as my hubby is on a high raw diet at the moment and he’ll probably love this with his salads :)

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