FORAGER’S PESTO

 

1/4 cup seeds (pictured sesame seeds)
2 tbsp. nuts (pictures pine and walnuts)
2 tbsp. water
1 bunch wild onions (spring onions or scallions work fine)
1 bunch herbs leafy herbs (pictured carrot tops)

5 oz. greens (pictured Arugula)
1/4 cup ripe berries (pictured raspberries)

Before fire, before homo sapiens even, there was a primitive form of cooking that required no heat or fuel but that of the human body.

The oldest known mortar and pestle goes back almost 40,000 years ago, but we know mashing food goes back to some of our earliest human ancestors, who likely smashed bones to access their delicious marrow.  They turned what whole meat they could scavenge into something like steak tartare. This high calorie, high in protein meat played a big role in growing our brains closer to their modern size.

Human foragers of the past had a vast knowledge of plants, animals, and ecology that would put most of us “civilized” people to shame.  Modern foraging people studied by anthropologists are like nature encyclopedias for their territory.

“Wild” greens, onions, and berries from my territory

This recipe is just a one take on what I’m calling Forager’s Pesto, trying to mimic an array of food that ancient hunter-gatherer’s might mash together into a delicious paste for meat, fish, and later bread. The beauty of this is you can really get creative.  As long as you’ve got some nuts and or seeds, greens, and some kind of berry, you can make a Forager’s Pesto.

20170817_151029.jpgCheater’s Pesto more like it. Some ingredients foraged, some not.

1/4 cup seeds (pictured sesame seeds)
2 tbsp. nuts (pictures pine and walnuts)
2 tbsp. water
1 bunch wild onions (spring onions or scallions work fine)
1 bunch herbs leafy herbs (pictured carrot tops)

5 oz. greens (pictured Arugula)
1/4 cup ripe berries (pictured raspberries)

Are you as pumped as I am? Let’s get smashy.

Start with your oily seeds. I used sesame seeds, but sunflower was a tempting choice. Use a combination of pounding and grinding in a circular motion to pulverize the seeds until it’s paste. This takes some time and muscle! At least five solid minutes.

Add your nuts and mash into the paste, keeping the additions a little more coarse.

Season with salt and stir in the water. Then scrape out your pestle, setting the nut and seed paste aside. Don’t worry about getting it clean.

Okay, carrot tops in. Mash them with the same pounding and grinding motions, just until they lose some volume and their bright color. About 10-15 seconds.

Onions in next. A little longer mashing time (about a minute) but same result.

See how they darken and shrink, just like they were cooked with heat? That’s because all cooking is simply controlled dehydration. That means that YES, this counts as “cooking” the food same as if fire were used.

Next, the greens. Star of the show. Arugula is my favorite, and close to something wild that a “caveman” might eat. But the possibilities are endless. Beet leaves are a close runner up.

Grind all the greens for 3-4 minutes until completely wilted. Add the nut paste back in and mash to combine.

Finally, the twist. Some “wild” raspberries to sweeten up the bitter flavors a bit, and add one more forager’s touch to the recipe. What gatherer could resist adding some over ripe berries to just about anything. Here they add the perfect note to balance the sauce.

Crush lightly!!! One or two pounds will do it. Then stir in with a spoon (or your finger if you’re a true ancient)

20170817_153306.jpg

Now that’s a pesto. Who needs garlic or even cheese?

20170817_153254.jpg20170817_154013.jpg

Serve atop ASH BREAD or any EARTH OVEN BAKED meat or fish. Or use it like pesto in any modern dish you want.  You can even mix it with raw beef to make an ancient steak tartare. The combinations are limitless.

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