Introduction: Nasturtium Garden Pesto

A fast, easy, and delicious exotic nasturtium pesto recipe that takes advantage of your spring and fall gardens after the basil is long gone and before it pops up again!

Traditional pesto is made form basil leaves and toasted pine nuts, but pesto lovers and crafty kitchen folk are getting more inventive every year. Waiting for summer basil can seem like an eternity sometimes (especially since it never lasts too long on account of it's delicious versatility!), so why not get creative with the other greens in the garden? I've religiously planted nasturtiums in my garden as a companion plant--it's a natural insect deterrent for most plants, it doesn't hog all of your soil's nutrients, it reseeds itself, and it's great in salads! As it turns out, nasturtiums aren't only good for other plants, it's got a high dose of vitamin C and mustard oils. So the natural conclusion? When you've eaten enough nasturtium in salads and it is overtaking your garden, make pesto!

Step 1: Things You'll Need

You'll need the following:
  • 2 Cups of Nasturtium Leaves
  • 1 Cup of Fresh Parsley
  • 6-10 Basil Leaves
  • 3-5 Cloves of Garlic
  • 1/4 Cup Walnuts
  • 7-9 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese
  • Salt to Taste
  • Pepper to Taste
  • Food Processor (not pictured)*
  • Tupperware (for storage, not pictured)
  • Rubber Spatula (not pictured)
Remember, this is an exotic pesto so get creative if you want to--use whats in your garden!

*NOTE: you can substitute a blender if you do not have a food processor.

Step 2: Prepare Your Ingredients

It always helps to prep a couple ingredients ahead of time. For this Instructable, I'm going to prep the greens and garlic ahead of time. This would also be a good time to prep your nuts if you like them toasted in your pesto.

  • Pluck stems from your greens. I leave a little stem on my parsley, but completely remove the stems of both my nasturtiums and basil. 
  • Wash your Greens in a bowl in your sink with cold water. 
  • Use a salad spinner or dish towel to dry them. 

  • Remove the skins from your garlic cloves (for help with this step, see step #3 in this Instructable)

Step 3: Nuts and Garlic

Add your walnuts and garlic to your food processor. Add salt and pepper--start with a small amount, you can always add. Also, remember that nasturtiums have a natural peppery flavor. 

Add roughly a Tablespoon of Olive Oil to help lubricate the nuts and garlic while your chopping them.

Now simply pulse or chop. This should be a fast chop, just long enough until the nuts and garlic are roughly chopped and equal in size. You don't want to pulse them too much since they will continue to get smaller as you pulse all of your other ingredients.  

Step 4: Greens

Add your nasturtium leaves, parsley, and basil to the food processor. Pour in the remaining olive oil.

Chop/pulse until all of your ingredients are uniform in size and as finely chopped as you'd like your finished pesto product. 

THOUGHT PROCESS: I used nasturtiums and parsley since that is what I had in my garden. It was pretty peppery and sharp. I added some basil (store bought as it's March, tsk tsk) to sweeten the overall pesto. 

Step 5: The Big Cheese

The final ingredient, cheese. I prefer parmesan cheese in my pestos, but I've seen a handful of recipes that also use pecorino, asiago, or even ricotta. Use the cheese that gives you the flavor and consistency of pesto that you like. For this Instructable, I'll be using parmesan. You can also experiment with freshly grated or shredded. 

Add your cheese to your food processor. Scrape the sides of your food processor with a rubber spatula to insure a thorough mixing. Blend/pulse until uniformly mixed. Taste, and add more salt and pepper to your liking. 

TIP: There is an ongoing discussion about whether or not to add cheese to pesto before or after freezing. In my experience the drier and older the cheese, the less the freezer time will effect your pesto. Along those same lines, if you are adding a fresh or wetter cheese to your pesto, it may become grainy in your freezer and is best to add it after you have thawed your stored pesto. I've also found that pesto doesn't last for too long at my place, so I add the cheese before storing it. 

Step 6: Serving and Storing

You're done! It's peppery, delicious, and an exotic cousin to your summer basil pesto. Enjoy.

Use your rubber spatula to scrape all of your pesto into your storage container of choice. Leave it in the fridge to snack on or freeze it for a later date!