We had a great time foraging edible plants, bringing home 20 pounds of ramps which turned into 14 pounds once cleaned. Yes we brought six pounds of dirt with us but I guess that’s tough part of the foraging process.
The fun part is deciding what to make with it and I wanted charred ramp pesto.
What is Pesto?
Most people are familiar with pesto genovese, a traditional Italian condiment using basil from Genoa a city in northern Italy. The traditional recipe is a basic mix of basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan.
The name “pesto” is a generic term, just like salsa (sauce) and curry (spice blend) and comes from the Italian verb pestâ, which means to crush. Traditionally pesto is made with mortar and pestle in a circular motion. It can be an intense preparation that I attempted once by hand but now I just make it in our food processor.
It’s not a sauce limited to Italy, in Argentina there is chimichurri and in France you can find pistou which is from Provence and includes only basil, olive oil and garlic.
Pesto took North America by storm in the 1980s and 90s when we were eating it on everything from pasta to rice. And when people grew tired of basil pesto sundried tomato pesto became the hot new ingredient. I’m sure Italians across the pond were gagging with distaste when they learned of this.
But pesto is a really versatile sauce, you can substitute for whatever nuts you have on hand and most hard cheeses like pecorino or aged cheddar. Vegans need not fear that they’ll miss out on the pesto train as they can substitute nutritional yeast for the cheese.
Charred Ramp Pesto Recipe
In the case of this charred ramp pesto recipe we excluded garlic, which is traditionally in pesto, as the ramps have such a great flavour.
We also charred the ramps to bring out the intensity in flavour.
- ¼ lbs ramps
- 200ml olive oil
- 25g cashews, unsalted
- 60g parmesan, grated
- salt and pepper to taste
- Char the ramps on an open flame, either on a gas stove, barbecue or with a blowtorch.
- Combine ramps, cashews, parmesan in a food processor and pulse to coarsely chop.
- Stream olive oil into food processor until smooth.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
If you make a lot of pesto and want to freeze some of it simply top a freezer-safe container with a layer of olive oil. Unlike canola oil or grapeseed oil, olive oil isn’t a winterized oil, which means it will congeal in the fridge or freezer.
While this may seem like a negative aspect in most cases, it’s perfect for preserving foods in the freezer as the congealed oil will create an air-tight surface and protect the charred ramp pesto in the freezer.