I recently discovered that kids love pesto. This discovery is based solely on my niece and nephew (both under 5), but I'm going to run with it.

This makes sense because the equation:

cheese + olive oil = yummy

generally holds up to scrutiny. Even with this shortcut to tastiness, wild garlic and garlic mustard are plants that bring a bit of extra flavour to the mix and can be found in abundance.

Wild garlic 

This is my preferred option of the two, so I took the opportunity to pick some when down in Sussex. 

It grows in woodlands near water where it often carpets the floor. Its appearance can be mistaken for the toxic lily of the valley, but if you are in any doubt just crush a bit of the leaf between your fingers and the smell is unmistakable, it's like spring onions.  

Pick by hand and be careful not to uproot the plant. Half a plastic bag full will make a decent amount of pesto. If there are only one or two plants move on to a spot where  they're more abundant. As with all foraging, take sparingly and only what you will use yourself. 

Me and my family had a great time exploring the woods, and picking these leaves came as a nice aside to the adventure.  

Here's my niece, having a great time in the woods just looking at things and hitting them with her tiny mal-coordinated hands. 


A big bunch of wild garlic

Olive oil - 140 ml 

Lemon juice - 2tsp (or to taste)

Parmesan cheese - 60g

Pine nuts (toasted) - 70g

Salt and pepper


Toast pine nuts in a pan. Add all ingredients to a blender, except a quarter of the pine nuts to add at the end. Blend until smooth. Add remaining nuts. Done. 

Have it with pasta, in sandwiches with cheese, it's really good in mash potato too. 

For a cheaper, simpler option you can just stir-fry the leaves using them like you would with spinach. 

NOTE: Beware if planting wild garlic at home, it can take over your garden as bulbs can proliferate profusely. 

Garlic mustard 

As wild garlic is much scarcer in East Anglia, this other plant is a fine alternative. 

The good thing about harvesting it is that it's often considered a weed so you can basically take as much as you want. 

Not tried making pesto with it so you might have to experiment. 

Enjoy foraging!

  • Hello Maurice, I've just made up a batch of Ground Elder Pesto using the same ingredients you have used (except that my pine nuts weren't toasted) and with slightly different proportions but the tast is excellent. It tasted really good after a night in the fridge. The leaves need to be the very small, soft leaves harvested before the plant flowers. Worth a try if you can find any that's not yet flowered. Ours in North Bucks is just developing flower buds now.