Chickweed Pesto: a wild recipe from your “yarden”

Kim Calhoun teaching workshop participants how to collect wild edibles.
Kim Calhoun teaching workshop participants how to collect wild edibles.


Last year, when I attended a wild foods walk at the Wild Food and Herb Market in Carrboro, I learned from the amazing community herbalist and wild foods enthusiast, Kim Calhoun. that some of those weeds proliferating in my yard and garden are both delicious and nutritious.  Freebies from Mother Nature.  I had heard that chickweed made great pesto, but that seemed too good to be true.

During a short walk on the wild side, Kim validated the chickweed story and gave me a whole new perspective on the bounty growing all around us.  She showed us the familiar chickweed, dandelion and speedwell thriving just a few steps away, confirming that chickweed and dandelion are great for salad and pesto, and speedwell has medicinal properties.

It’s important to properly identify plants before consuming them, Kim said (a magnifying glass and illustrated guide are useful tools).  Avoid areas that may have been treated with pesticides or harmed by roadway run-off or other toxic substances.  And, before harvesting, be sure to thank the plant, and don’t pluck more than you need.

Kim shows a group what chickweed looks like.
Kim shows a group attending an Abundance DIY Workshop at The Plant what chickweed looks like.


A week later, I got down on my knees in my garden patch to thank and pluck three cups of the chickweed that had proliferated there since I harvested my sweet potatoes in the fall. A few minutes later, I was savoring the fantastic Chickweed Pesto I made from Kim’s recipe, reprinted below with her permission.

If you want to learn more about edible wild foods and herbs, I highly recommend that you connect with Kim and consider signing up for one of her wild food workshops, walkabouts or field studies, offered throughout our area, where you’ll get to forage, learn about medicinal and helpful plants and trees, and maybe even make wild greens pesto.

She has a Winter Tree Exploration class series starting this Tuesday, October 28th.  More about this series after the recipe!

Kim’s Recipe:

Planty Kim’s Wild Herb Pesto
Recipe Type: sauce
Cuisine: Locavore NC
Author: Kim Calhoun
Serves: 4
This recipe will surprise you with how delicious wild herbs can be. A spicy and refreshing pesto to add some excitement to pasta, chicken, or to just eat with crackers. The flavor changes with the season, and what herbs are available!
  • 3 medium garlic cloves
  • ½ cup walnuts (or pecans, almonds, cashews, pine nuts)
  • 3 cups firmly packed greens (any combo of seasonal wild & cultivated herbs—see list below)
  • ¼-½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon UME plum vinegar (or sea salt to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (a dairy-free option instead of parmesan cheese)
  1. Blend garlic and nuts in food processor until coarsely chopped.
  2. Add remainder of ingredients to food processor and blend till desired smoothness. Yields approximately one cup.
  3. Eat on crackers, mixed into pasta, smeared on a frittata or fried egg sandwich, spread on rolls or pizza, get creative!
  4. Any leftovers will keep in the fridge for a week or more. I like to triple the recipe and freeze some Wild Green Pesto in half pint (8oz.) glass mason jars.
WILD GREENS OF THE NC PIEDMONT (to name a few): chickweed, creasy greens/cress, dandelion leaves, plantain leaves, tender yellow dock leaves, wild lettuce leaves, cleavers, wild garlic, self heal, violets, henbit…don’t forget flowers too—dandelion (remove bitter green base), henbit…[br][br]CULTIVATED GREENS: parsley, cilantro, nettle, lemon balm, thyme, rosemary, nettle, oregano…

Winter Tree Exploration Class

Participants in Kim’s Winter Tree Exploration can expect to deepen their awareness and connection with our largest plant friends: the trees!  In this field study the class will visit various local environments to explore ways to identify trees in the wintertime.  Kim will also cover the edible and medicinal properties of trees, ethical gathering, and preparation, while enjoying many hands-on activities.  The class runs from 1-4pm each Tuesday for six weeks and costs $71.25.

Class for ages 14 and older. Class size is limited. Register in person or by phone at CCCC in Pittsboro: (919) 545-8044.  6-week class (21 hours) costs $71.25.  More info on Kim’s website.

Wild-harvested herbs!
Wild-harvested herbs!
Selecting herbs for making pesto.
Selecting herbs for making pesto.
In the kitchen at Abundance NC, whipping up some delicious pesto.
In the kitchen at Abundance NC, whipping up some delicious pesto.


Learn more about Kim Calhoun at her website, AbunDance Healing Arts.


This article adapted, with permission, from Sustainable Grub.