Wild garlic and walnut pesto – and foraging tips

pesto2Love, love, love wild garlic, or ‘ramsons’ as I was brought up to call these leaves. I do enjoy a bit of foraging; food always seems to be a bit tastier if you’ve gone out and picked it from it’s native habitat (whether that’s actually true or not).

This is not only a twist on pesto because it uses ramsons rather than the traditional basil, but I have also switched out the pine nuts for walnuts.

If I could just work out what British cheese to replace the parmesan with and maybe use verjus rather than lemon I could swap out the original Italian recipe for an entirely British one – maybe that’s a challenge I can look into!


I have only given a recipe for enough for a small jar full – this should be sufficient to coat enough pasta for a meal for 4 – 6 people or for at least a couple of meals’ use as an added ingredient.

I have done this because you shouldn’t keep it for more than a couple of days. This way you don’t waste the parmesan and the ramsons you’ve taken care and time to forage by making so much it’s in danger of going off before you can use it all. I confess that I am very lucky in that my supply of wild garlic is close to where I work so I can go pick a fresh handful each lunch when I want to cook with it.

Something interesting about ramsons is that the underside of the leaf is hydroscopic – that is, it naturally repels water. Why it’s evolved to have the underside, not the top do this I can’t imagine! However, it does mean it’s a bit tricky to wash πŸ™‚

Foraging tips – finding ramsons

  • Ramsons/wild garlic is usually found somewhere damp and is more likely next to a running stream than a static lake, though can be by either
  • Will be sited somewhere between deep, wooded cover to dappled shade
  • You’ll possibly smell it before you see it
  • In it’s early-season form it looks like bunches of tulip leaves
  • Later on it gets white flower heads that burst into star-dusted white flowers (in a sparse ball shape)
  • Often in a locality, there will be a ‘Ramson Road’ or a ‘Ramson Wood’ – this was because originally everyone knew where the wild garlic was and called the area after it. It’s worth searching on Google maps etc for somewhere close to you called this – they could well be still growing there

If you go foraging, please abide by these ‘unwritten rules’ to ensure that the area and the plants you take from remain healthy:

  • take only what you need, no more
  • don’t over take from the plant: better to take a little from several plants than wipe out one. This includes nuts and berries (not because you’re damaging the plant itself, but because it’s part of the local ecosystem and its fruiting bodies are needed to feed the local wildlife and continue its propogation of new plants)
  • don’t take the original plant (ie don’t dig any roots up) or break it irrevocably
  • leave the area as little disturbed as possible

That way there will be some more when you next go back!



  • Food processor and/or pestle and mortar
  • Jar, bottle or other container to store in the fridge
  • Grater


  • A large bunch of ramsons (wild garlic), washed thoroughly – about 40g to 45g
  • Walnuts – 40g
  • Parmesan, grated – 40g
  • Salt – large pinch
  • Garlic – a small clove, or half a normal sized one, chopped a little (just to make it easier to pound in the mortar)
  • Olive oil – about 3 tablespoons
  • Lemon juice (from a fresh lemon!) – about 1 -2 teaspoons (depending on your taste)


  • Either use a pestle and mortar throughout or do step 1 in a food processor (I have tried to make this recipe completely in a food processor and found that I needed to do the later steps in the pestle and mortar anyway. It never seems to break up the leaves enough for me – they stick round the edges of the processor and under the blade and still need pounding. However, you may have a better performing food processor than I do though!)
  1. Pulse the leaves, garlic and the walnuts together in the processor or pound them together in the mortar (you may need to do this in batches if your mortar is small)
  2. Add the salt and two tablespoons of the oil and bash together in the mortar. Add more oil to loosen the consistency as required
  3. Add the parmesan and muddle together with the pestle
  4. Add a teaspoon of the lemon juice, muddle again and taste – add more salt and/or lemon juice as needed
  5. Keep in a container in the fridge for up to two-three days




  1. What a lovely idea! I planted some in the garden last year and the leaves are out now. I like the idea of using walnuts. Makes the pesto richer in flavour. As for cheese, I might try it witht white cheshire cheese. It’s one of my favourites, not too strong and kind of creamy so I think it might work well here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Maryam! I often use walnuts in ‘normal’ pesto – they’re surprisingly close in taste and texture in it to pine nuts. Nice that you’ve got some in your garden – I have a little too, but not enough for how much I live using these leaves xxx


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