Wild Mustard & Dill Pesto

Wild garlic pesto is a classic forager’s favourite. At the time of writing (early May) the leaves are starting to look a bit tired as the plant puts it’s energy into the those beautiful, star shaped flowers. Mustard leaves however are plentiful through May and June and make great pestos with a firey kick. Look for black mustard (pictured below) leaves in allotments and coastal locations. You can add wild or shop bought fermented mustard seeds to your pestos – Jack by the hedge (a type of super common wild mustard) seeds are the easiest to harvest. I just wait until June when the seeds have dried and turned black in their elongated pods. The simplest way to harvest is to place a bag over the top of the plant and shake the plant to release seeds into your bag. 

Seed Fermenting Method:

  • Make a brine by adding sea salt to mineral water. Go with approximately 5% salt total volume.
  • Add brine to mustard seeds in a jar
  • Taste after a few days by which time fermentation should have started to take place

Wild Mustard and Dill Pesto:

  • Wild garlic or Black mustard leaves

Sea Radish leaves and Jack by the Hedge leaves also work well. Another common wild mustard with a real nasal kick is Lesser swine cress (allotments and paths)

Lost and Grounded

There are those times when I hadn’t planned to forage a single leaf. I’m on my way somewhere else then stop and spend hours exploring a new wonderland, loosing all track of time or purpose. Hours later as the night draws in, I leave the woods, the hood of my coat now an improvised basket full of mushrooms and herbs.  For me, such times represent a letting go, moving from busy squirrel mode, with so many thoughts and concerns, to gradually slowing down. I once again remember to listen, allowing myself to be guided by a different compass. I am drawn here and there not having to know. It is the experience, the moment, which is the prize rather than a basket, or improvised hood full, of mushrooms.  As I was preparing to leave the woods at the weekend, on just such an evening, I came across a poem by Laurie Lee inscribed on a post. For me it brought the spirit of nature, of every creature, to life. As I read it out loud, over and over, I was sure I could hear the trees listening to me. 

April’s Rise by Laurie Lee.

If ever I saw a blessing in the air

I see it now in this still early day

Where lemon-green the vaporous morning drips

Wet sunlight on the powder of my eye.

Blown bubble-film of blue, the sky wraps round

Weeds of warm light who’s every route and rod

Splutters with soapy green, and all the world.

Sweats with the bead of summer in its bud.

If ever I heard blessings, it is there

Where birds in trees that shoals and shadows are

Splash with their hidden wings and drops of sound 

Break on my ears, their crests of throbbing air.

Pure in the haze, the Emerald Sun dilates,

The lips of sparrow’s milk the mossy stones

While white as water by the lake a girl

Swims her green hands among the gathered swans

Now as the almond burns it’s smoking wick,

Dropping small flames to light the candled grass;

Now, as my low blood scales its second chance 

If ever world were blessed, now it is.