Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Herbalist's Pesto

I love pesto. It is delicious and versatile, and can be used in countless recipes. Since I have transferred to a high raw diet I have become found of putting it on spiralized noodles, or in zucchini layered "lasagna".  Pesto makes a great spread on veggies or raw crackers. It works in soups or wraps. And a little pesto drizzle over top of almost any dish elevates it to a higher culinary level.

The beauty of pesto is that you can take almost any green, add a few seeds or nuts, dash with a bit of oil, and presto! Deliciousness awaits! My goal in this recipe was to up the health factor a bit. Many of the herbs in this recipe were foraged. If you decide to go that route PLEASE know what you are doing. If you are unsure when identifying a plant, don't use it. I also used dried nettles which can be purchased in huge bags inexpensively online. (We have used Vitacost and Amazon.)

Let me go into the herbs a bit further and discuss some of their benefits. The two foraged herbs I used in this pesto are dandelion and plantain. Both are considered weeds and many people in America spend a lot of money to cover their yards in chemicals to kill these off. However, they are both edible and healthier for you than many lettuces stocked on supermarket shelves.

Plantain is good for cleaning the blood. It is a diuretic and helps with kidney or bladder problems. Externally plantain can also be used to treat wounds, so if you get a scratch out on a hike just chew a bit into a wad and place it on the scar.

Dandelion is also a diuretic. Rich in antioxidants, as well as anti inflammatory, dandelions are a great green for people with skin problems. Another benefit to dandelions is that they are high in calcium. Nowadays you can even buy dandelion greens at some grocery stores, but they grow everywhere! Just be sure you are picking them from a clean area that isn't chemically treated.

The final herb I used which you may not be familiar with is stinging nettles. Nettles are safe for everyone to take, even small children. They are high in iron, which makes them a great benefit for vegetarians (also, as a woman, I find them beneficial certain times of the month). Nettles are recommended for people who suffer from allergies. They are a great digestive aid and, along with plantain and dandelion, help with kidney and bladder functioning. While I purchased my nettles they can also be foraged, though aren't quite as easy to find as dandelion and plantain.

 Plantain, nettle, and dandelion. 

There is a delicate balance between making recipes with optimal  health benefits and making something that tastes good. Medicinal herbs should be thought of a bit differently than many culinary herbs. Both dandelion and plantain have a slightly bitter taste, so I paired them with basil, which is a sweeter herb. Using lemon and high quality oils also make for a more appealing treat. So follow this recipe, or go out yourself to find some greens and get creative!

Herbalist's Pesto:

large handful of basil
medium handful of dandelion
small handful of plantain
small handful of arugula
1/4 cup of dried nettles
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon hemp oil
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup of brazil nuts
sprinkle of nutritional yeast
pink Himalayan salt to taste

Put all ingredients in a food processor and blend. Put it on whatever your heart desires. Enjoy!

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