Perennial Pesto

From left to right: garlic mustard, thyme, garlic chives, greek oregano, tarragon, lovage and chervil.

Springtime is the time of insecurity, when I cultivate and wait for the season to begin. As trees and shrubs bud out and turn green, the grass grows tall and the lilacs bloom, little grows in my garden. The warm sun and longer days taunt me with thoughts of luscious greens and summer bounty, only to be greeted with half inch sprouts sprinkling the ground. Will they ever grow? What else can I do? I hope and plant and weed and worry.

On top of this, my peas were literally mowed by a deer last week, who was so desperate for my sweet pea shoots that it leaped through the fence. I was beginning to doubt I would ever eat anything from my garden this year. My mind fell into a deep pit of spring despair.

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English Thyme

English Thyme

Charming perennial herb for the kitchen garden.

Common Sage

Common Sage

Easy to grow from seed.

But oh, what is that? Little green clusters in my garden? Bright thyme, tall garlic chives, spicy oregano, chartreuse lovage, wispy chervil, and abundant tarragon sprinkle the hopeful garden landscape, while garlic mustard, ramps and watercress abound in the wilds of the northeastern woods. The perennials are the nutritious troopers of spring, and to behold them in that moment brought me out of my spring garden slump.

Upon realizing the abundance before me, I had the urge to mix it together. I didn't even wonder what tarragon and lovage might taste like together, I just did it. And Perennial Pesto was born. The flavor of spring, strong, hardy, sweet and nourishing.

Perennial Pesto

Use whatever is in your garden.* The following can be used as a guide.

  • 1 small bunch garlic chives, chives, chive flowers, ramps or any other spring allium
  • 3 sprigs thyme, stems removed
  • 2 sprigs oregano, stems removed
  • 2 sprigs chervil
  • 2 stalks lovage
  • handful tarragon
  • leaves from 3 stalks garlic mustard
  • 3 tablespoons chopped nuts or seeds
  • 10 tablespoons evoo
  • salt to taste
  • Place all prepped herbs and greens in the bowl of a food processor.*
  • Add salt and nuts and process until well blended and smooth. Add more oil if necessary.
  • Use immediately, or store by placing in an air tight container with a layer of olive oil on top.
  • Makes 3/4 cup.


*Other good spring plants could be nettles, parsley, sage, cilantro, marjoram and arugula.

*Alternately, chop all herbs finely and combine all ingredients by hand with a mortar and pestle.

** That's Perennial Pesto Sourdough Pizza with Caramelized Onions and Shiitakes above and on the left.

4 thoughts on “Perennial Pesto”

  • Reagan Upshaw
    Reagan Upshaw 04/30/2012 at 8:06 am

    I enjoyed the posting and will try the pesto. Not to nitpick, but as a former English teacher, I must point out that your use of "troopers" is incorrect. A "trooper" is a calvalryman or a state highway officer. A "trouper" is a member of an acting troup.

    The sense here is that a trouper says, "The show must go on!" and performs whether he or she is feeling well or not

    These plants are troupers.

    • Erin

      Thanks for reading and the lesson! Point taken, however this mistake is so common that both uses are generally acceptable. (In fact trouper and trooper come from the same source, the french troupe.) While I think perennials are troupers, I meant to emphasize strength of these plants rather than the reliability, although, reliable they are!

  • Annie Smith
    Annie Smith 05/02/2012 at 1:44 pm

    Hallelujah! While out walking a few weeks ago I started to notice a particular plant and suddenly became aware that it was GROWING EVERYWHERE. I thought "is this a new pervasive pest" and "where did it come from" and "has it been around all along and I just haven't noticed it"??? After going through about five wildflower books, I found it -- garlic mustard!!!!!! My husband & I keep seeing it EVERYWHERE, but mostly is shady spots under trees and bushes. I even found a plant establishing itself among my raspberry bushes in my very own garden (not shady).

    So, here it turns up in your basil recipe!! Amazing. Guess I'd better plant lots of basil so I can use up hundreds of acres of garlic mustard. What's the story on this prolific wildflower?

  • Sun Perennials

    The post is amazing and we will make an effort for pesto. It is a new pervasive pest and and no idea from where it came.


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