Different Types of Wild Greens with Pesto Recipe

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Balance a range of flavors to make a bold, flavorful pesto.
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"The Sioux Chef's Indigenous Kitchen" by Sean Sherman with Beth Dooley introduces readers to modern indigenous cuisine of the Dakota and Minnesota territories by sharing award-winning recipes and stories.
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Foraging for wild greens.
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Foraging at dusk.

The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen (University of Minnesota Press, 2017), by Sean Sherman and Beth Dooley introduces readers to modern cuisine of the Dakota and Minnesota territories. The book shares award-winning recipes that embrace locally sourced and seasonal, “clean” ingredients. The following excerpt is from Chapter 1, “Fields and Gardens.”

You can buy purchase this book from the Heirloom Gardener store:The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen.

We’ve become so accustomed to ridding our gardens and lawns of dandelion greens, purslane, plantain, and other wild greens that we’ve forgotten they are good food. Although it’s unclear if dandelions, purslane, and plantain are indigenous, there is some evidence that they may have reached North America in the pre-Columbian era, suggesting that these plants were already being eaten by Native Americans before Europeans arrived. Add wood sorrel, watercress, lamb’s quarters, miner’s lettuce, clover, and garlic mustard that grow wild in backyards, fields, and the borders of forests, and you have a great salad mix — delicious and loaded with vitamins. Instead of trying to eradicate these plants in our lawns, we can just eat them up!

Wild Greens Glossary


The entire amaranth plant is edible — its tiny shoots, the green leaves, stems, seeds, and roots. When harvested young, they add zip to salads and pesto and make a lively garnish for soups.


Early in the season, the entire plant is still tender and bright tasting, so we use it all in salads and pesto. Early in the season the leaves are mild, succulent, and delicate, then they grow bitter as the months progress.


Clover is the first green to appear in the spring and tastiest when it’s enjoyed early on. As the season progresses, it becomes bitter.


This is our favorite spring green — lively and peppery, great in salads and wonderful in pesto. We often chop it to garnish soups and light stews. The entire plant is edible, so don’t hesitate to use the pretty yellow flowers for garnish; when they first bloom, their flavor is mild and almost sweet.


The big spiky leaves taste a little like lemony spinach. As the season progresses, they can become very astringent but suitable chopped and used as a garnish.


The young greens and stems are great diced in salads; peppery and grassy, they add zip.

Lamb’s Quarters

Lamb’s quarters absorbs minerals from the soil and can add a lovely salty flavor to salads or pesto. The leaves can also be used like spinach, lightly sautéed or added to soups and stews at the last minute.


Mallow is one of the last greens of the harvest and one of the first to return in the spring. It is mild tasting. The entire plant, when diced, helps thickens soups and stews.


Mustard greens make a spicy addition to salads and pesto. The seeds are easy to harvest for spice and homemade mustard.


Plantain leaves are delicious in salads, especially in those tossed with berries and apples.


This is one of the most nutritious greens on the planet — loaded with vitamins and minerals. It contains more vitamin E than spinach, more beta-carotene than carrots, and is 2.5 percent protein. It is chock-full of omega 3 fatty acids that help boost the immune system and support brain function.


Watercress grows along fast-running cold streams and is one of the first greens to appear through the crusts of snow. It’s bright and peppery, fabulous in salads, and great in pesto. It pairs perfectly with trout.

Wild Greens Pesto Recipe

Wat?ót?o yužápi

To make a bold, flavorful pesto, I try to balance a range of flavors: fragrant mint, potent mustard, citrusy sorrel or purslane, bitter dandelion, neutral lamb’s quarters. Making pesto the old-fashioned way by pounding together the greens, nuts, and oil will yield a thick, rough sauce.

If you’d like something smoother, blend it all together in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. This will keep a week or more in the refrigerator in a covered container.

Wood sorrel, like its domestic cousin, adds a bright, lemony flavor to this sauce.

Yield: 1-1/2 cups


  • 2 cups wild greens, some combination of sorrel, dandelion greens, purslane, lamb’s quarters, wild mint, and mustard
  • 1 wild onion or 1/4 cup chopped shallot
  • 1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds
  • 2/3 to 3/4 cup sunflower or hazelnut oil
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch maple sugar


  1. Pound together the greens, onion or shallot, and sunflower seeds with a mortar and pestle or by whizzing in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.
  2. Slowly work in the oil and season to taste with salt and a little maple sugar.

More from The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen:

From The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen by Sean Sherman with Beth Dooley (University of Minnesota Press, October 2017). © 2017 Ghost Dancer, LLC. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the University of Minnesota Press. Buy this book from our store:The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen.

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