Chickweed is a spring herb that is abundant here in East Tennessee. Not only is it easy to identify, but it has several different uses — one of which is chickweed pesto. Chickweed pesto is one of my favorite ways to use chickweed. Not only is it healthy for you, but it’s easy to make and tastes good too!
Identifying & Harvesting Chickweed
Chickweed is a perennial plant that loves shady, moist areas. It’s often one of the first plants to pop up in the spring and is one of the last to die in the fall. In some instances, you can even find it growing under the snow! It loves cool weather, and if it gets too hot outside, it will lie dormant and come back when the weather cools.
Chickweed has small, oval leaves arranged in opposite pairs up the stem. The plant is covered in tiny soft hairs. The leaves and flower buds are completely covered in these hairs, while the hairs on the stem are only found in a line of one side of the stem. When each set of leaves branch off, the hairs switch to the opposite side of the stem. The small, ½-inch long oval leaves are arranged in opposite pairs along the stem. Chickweed flowers have five white petals, each with deeply divided clefts so it appears to have ten petals. These flowers open in the morning and close in the evening. The roots of chickweed grow just under the surface of the ground and are easy to pull up except for the one taproot that grows deeper.
To harvest chickweed, simply pull it out of the ground! It grows so plentifully there’s no risk to overharvesting it.
Making Chickweed Pesto
When you’re ready to make your chickweed pesto, give your plants a good rinse, remove any pieces of grass or seeds you find, cut the roots off with scissors or a knife, and you’re all set. Feel free to tweak the recipe below to fit your taste.
- 2 cups fresh chickweed, chopped
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cup pine nuts
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (more as needed)
- Lemon juice to taste
- Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor, and pulse until everything is coarsely chopped and mixed together. Taste. Add additional seasonings, if needed.
- Transfer to a glass storage container, and store in the refrigerator for two hours before eating so flavors can infuse.
- Enjoy with vegetable crudités, bread, cheese, or in any recipes where pesto is called for.
I hope you enjoy, friends!