Bear Garlic Pesto

I’m well-stocked with bear garlic right now. Two of my friends have brought handfuls of the herb straight from their gardens, the bright green leaves still glistening with raindrops when they came. Bear garlic, wild garlic, ramsons or whatever you like to call it is prolific after all the rain we’ve experienced in Slovakia this spring. The soil is moist, the temperatures have risen lately, and that’s exactly what this newly discovered ‘superherb’ needs for its growth. I use it almost every day now to add a colour and an extra kick to the family meals. Bear garlic is perfect in soups, scrambled eggs, to sprinkle over home-made pizza, or liven up salads. This year, while trying to put to good use the plentiful supply I have been given, I experimented with bear garlic pesto.

Pumpkin seeds have long been valued for the diversity of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals they contain.

Unlike in most pesto recipes you’ll find on the Internet, I used pumpkin seeds instead of pine nuts, and replaced olive oil with a rapeseed one. Both in the attempt to utilize what I had on hand in my kitchen, but they also turned out to be ingredients native to Slovakia. Pumpkin seeds usually come shelled in packets of 250 g, and rapeseed oil is procured from the locally grown rapeseed plant, which is in full bloom now, flooding our countryside with golden yellow hues.

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Bear Garlic Pesto
Serves 8

  • about 100 g bear garlic leaves
  • 50 g pumpkin seeds, dried and shelled
  • 50 g Parmesan or other hard cheese
  • about 150 ml oil
  • salt and lemon juice to taste

Method:

Put the pumpkin seeds in a saucepan and dry-roast over a medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring now and then to prevent burning. Take away from the heat and let cool.

Grate the cheese finely.

Remove the stems, wash the bear garlic leaves and chop them on a board. Place in a bowl with a little oil and use a blender to break the leaves further.

Grind the pumpkin seeds (I did it in my nut-grinder, as I don’t have a food processor) and transfer to the garlic mixture. Pour in some more oil and blend again. Add the grated cheese with the rest of the oil and blend further.

Finally, add the salt and the lemon juice to taste, and give your pesto one last whisk. Transfer to a clean bowl and serve on a toast, a slice of fresh bread or with your favourite pasta.

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If not used, cover with clingfilm and store in the fridge for up to 10 days.

I found out that the pesto tasted even better on the 3rd – 4th day when all the flavours had sunk in.

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