Recipes

Creamy Dandelion Pesto Spread

If you’re a gardener, you are likely to find yourself pulling dandelions this time of year. I know I certainly am. Since I practice no-till gardening, I do not pulverize my weeds with a big machine. I smother them with mulch, I pull them, or I simply leave them be. I take a hybrid approach to the dandelions, letting them grow until I am ready to harvest them for food and medicine.

Dandelion seeds were brought to this continent on the Mayflower by English immigrants. It’s hard to imagine planting dandelions now that they have become such a ubiquitous weed, but people actually planted the seeds for the first dandelions. They were prized for providing dependable food and valuable medicines. Now, dandelions are considered naturalized, and they are here to stay. Dandelions have been a part of every yard and garden I’ve ever had, though I never sowed their seeds. They have become such an intrinsic part of my life that their appearance marks the seasons for me. The tender early greens and plump roots of March, the bright yellow flowers of April, the sharply bitter greens of summer, the roots again in autumn. On the farm, I have learned to cherish them for another reason. They have outperformed every cover crop I have planted here, and the soil under the thickest dandelion patches is noticeably better than the soil without dandelions.

dandelion leaves and roots in a glass bowl

Now in early spring, the flavor of the dandelion greens is mild and fresh. I’ve been finding them in boxes of fancy salad mixes and relishing their delicious flavor in many of my meals. If you make this pesto recipe now, it will have a light spring taste, only slightly bitter. Later in the season, it will take on a bolder flavor. I love it either way, and I look forward to this sauce all winter. It goes well with spring peas, on sandwiches, tossed with pasta, or as a dip for veggies. As I prepare my garden beds for planting, I dig up the dandelions, wash them well, and separate the roots from the leaves. I chop the roots and dry them for tea, and I make this pesto from the leaves. Now you can make it too!

Ingredients

  • 1/3 Cup Hulled Sunflower Seeds (Note: for a more traditional, non-creamy pesto, reduce this to about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3 Cups Fresh Dandelion Greens
  • Zest of 1 Lemon
  • Juice of 1 Lemon
  • 1/4 Cup Nutritional Yeast (substitute parmesan cheese if you prefer)
  • 1-3 medium sized garlic cloves, or a handful of any green garlicky veggies that are fresh in your garden right now. I used a few snippings of garlic chives plus two garlic cloves.
  • Sea Salt and Pepper to taste. As a start, try 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper. (I love salt and pepper, and I always add a little more sea salt and much more pepper.)

Instructions

Add sunflower seeds, olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast to the bowl of a food processor. Process until very smooth.

Turn off the food processor, open the lid, and add in the fresh dandelion greens. Process these until they are pureed into little flecks of green, or as smooth as you like.

Taste to see if it needs more of anything. Everybody’s taste preferences are a little different and pesto is such a fun thing to experiment with! Do you feel like you want yours to be a little more tangy? Squeeze more lemon in there! Does it taste a little bland? Try more salt and pepper! Is it too thick for you? More lemon or olive oil! Want a deeper green color? Add in more greens! Maybe you want to throw in another herb or spice. Go for it! Experimentation is half the fun of cooking, and I encourage you to really make this recipe your own.

I look forward to seeing pictures of all your dandelion pesto creations!

Note: This article discusses edible and medicinal wild plants. Always do your own thorough research before touching, foraging or ingesting any plant that’s new to you. Identification mistakes can happen and so can allergies, interactions, and idiosyncratic reactions. Information presented in this article and elsewhere on this web site is for educational and entertainment purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any health conditions. View our full legal disclaimer here.