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Leafy Greens, Radish Tops, and Vegetables “Presto Pesto“

I love to watch cooking shows, especially Guys Grocery Games and Chopped. The contestants on those shows are forced to be creative. They work with what they have and find alternative uses for ingredients, which is basically what happens during my own kitchen adventures. Last year I planted several vegetables and herbs, but the only one that grew well was basil, and I didn’t do anything with it. This year I have successfully grown a variety of radish greens, a few microgreens, basil, and parsley and have been contemplating what to do with them. If you have read any of my previous blogs, you will know that I am committed to reducing food waste. So, I am passionate about finding and or creating recipes that can also help others reduce food waste. One of my favorite food waste strategies is making pesto sauce out of just about anything, and that was a perfect outlet for the “greens” from my container garden.

The word pesto comes from the Italian verb “pestare” and refers to the way the product is made instead of the ingredients. According to Google Dictionary, “pestare” means: “to pound, beat, grind, trample on, pestle, work over,” which is what happens to the ingredients when you make pesto. The most common pesto sauce is made with a base of basil, mixed with oil, nuts, garlic, hard cheese, and lemon, but any leafy green or other vegetables can be used. Traditionally a mortar and pestle is used, but a food processor or blender is a more practical option, especially if using something other than leafy greens.  I think you will find that if you use the ratio and process below, you will create a colorful and flavorful sauce that will be an excellent addition to any pasta, protein, or vegetable, even if your finished product is not exactly what you had planned.

Traditionally a mortar and pestle are used to make pesto.

Traditionally a mortar and pestle are used to make pesto.
Chase Baillie ©2020, Clemson Extension

The basic ratio and recipe for any pesto is 1:1:2:2:8, nuts, garlic, oil, hard cheese, greens (or vegetable). <br/>Chase Baillie ©2020, Clemson Extension

The basic ratio and recipe for any pesto is 1:1:2:2:8, nuts, garlic, oil, hard cheese, greens (or vegetable).
Chase Baillie ©2020, Clemson Extension

The basic ratio and recipe for any pesto is 1:1:2:2:8,  nuts, garlic, oil, hard cheese, greens (or vegetable).  

Process:

Blend ¼ cup nuts and 1 garlic clove into a loose paste

Slowly add 2 cups of greens or vegetables and pulse

Blend and slowly add ½ cup oil

Continue blending, add ½ cup cheese until desired consistency is achieved

Lemon juice and salt can be added to taste

After processing, it can be used immediately, kept for 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator, or frozen.

After processing, pesto can be kept for 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator, or frozen. <br/> Chase Baillie ©2020, Clemson Extension

After processing, pesto can be kept for 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator, or frozen.
Chase Baillie ©2020, Clemson Extension

For more information on:

Processing and storaging traditional pesto; see HGIC Basil and Pesto.

Cultivation, care, and harvesting basil; see HGIC 1327, Basil.

Uses for basil and other herbs; see HGIC Healthy Tips of the Week – Herbs.

Recipe using pesto; see HGIC Italian Zucchini and Tomato Gratin.

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at hgic@clemson.edu or 1-888-656-9988.

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