Wild BC Pesto

Try this traditional Italian sauce with a BC twist

Credit: Jenn Chic

Although traditionally made with basil, pesto can also be made with watercress or nettles

Create a distinct BC-style pesto with ingredients from the Vancouver Farmers Market

“Pesto” comes from the Italian pestare – to pound. In Italy, pesto is made with basil, olive oil, garlic, salt and Parmesan cheese.

When made in a mortar and pestle, the basil maintains its sweet, floral flavours and does not become bitter, like it tends to do when made in a blender. Compensation for that bitterness comes from adding more than the usual amount of fresh grated Reggiano. Give the mortar and pestle a try and make your Nonna proud.

This pesto recipe follows the ratio of ingredients in a traditional recipe, but that’s where the similarity ends. The greens grow wild on BC’s Sunshine Coast and the nuts are from the Lower Mainland – and it’s all available at the Vancouver Farmers Market.

Feel free to add the cheese if you like, perhaps something from Salt Spring Island or Cowichan Valley. Because the greens are so hardy, and bitter is their thing, a blender does the trick with no gustatory harm.


  • 4 cups watercress or nettles, stems and all
  • ½ cup walnuts or hazelnuts, roughly chopped and toasted
  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup finely grated hard cheese (optional)
  • ¾ cup sunflower oil
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper


  1. Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and pulse. A little bit of texture is better
  2. Serve on pasta, boiled potatoes, sandwiches, brown rice or as a garnish on soup

Makes about 1 ½ cups.