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Garlic Mustard Pesto: How to Turn this Invasive Weed into Dinner

When I see the garlic mustard coming up in the spring all over my yard, I have 2 simultaneous thoughts. 1) Oh no, I've got weeding to do, and 2) Yay! time to make garlic mustard pesto.

This week I did a little bit of both, and I wanted to share my recipe and process for making pesto out of garlic mustard. It is really nice to have fresh pesto long before basil season, and to be able to use something that grows without any help from me.

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)

First, I found some nice looking plants and harvested the tops and large leaves. I used a pair of gardening pruners, but a pair of scissors would have done the trick as well. It is a very tender plant, especially in the early spring.

Freshly harvested tops and leaves

4 cups washed with stems removed

I rinsed the garlic mustard and let it drain in a colander, then measured what I had, which came to 4 cups.

First batch ready to be blended

Most pesto recipes are based on 2 cups of basil, but no matter what type of pesto I am making, I always make a double batch. You can really use any basic pesto recipe and just substitute the garlic mustard leaves for basil. My recipe is below.

Garlic mustard pesto, ready to eat or freeze



  • 4 cups garlic mustard leaves and/or tender tops

  • 2/3 cup olive oil

  • 2/3 cup pine nuts (walnuts work great too)

  • 6 cloves fresh garlic

  • 2/3 cup freshly grated parmesan, pecorino, or romano cheese (vegan substitutes work too)

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 2 tsp lemon juice


Depending on the strength of your blender, making pesto can take a bit of strategy. My blender is a bit old and tired, so I have to take care not to overload it with too much roughage at one time.

My strategy is to put all the ingredients in the blender, but only add half the garlic mustard leaves. Then I begin to blend. Once the blending process is underway, I slowly add the remaining garlic mustard leaves. If the blender begins to get caught and stop blending, I stop and give it a stir. Sometimes it may be necessary to add a bit more oil, but I am careful not to add too much so it doesn't get too oily.

When it looks done, I do three things.

  1. Serve some immediately!

  2. Put some in a container in the fridge. I only do this with as much as I think will be eaten in the next few days.

  3. Put the rest into containers that I label and put into the freezer. When doing this, I try to use small containers so that when I defrost it, it will be the right amount for one or two meals.


About me

My name is Jillian Bar-av and I am a Registered Herbalist and Licensed Nutritionist. I specialize in supporting people who have complex urinary tract conditions, such as Interstitial Cystitis, with a comprehensive holistic approach that helps people to increase their quality of life. I’ve seen how healing herbs can be for the urinary system and how much they can help people to feel well again. Working with herbs is not only deeply healing, but part of my philosophy that it takes healthy people to create a healthy planet, and I want to make a difference for both.

If you are interested in learning about my clinical practice, or scheduling an appointment, you can do that here:

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