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How to make watercress pesto

This recipe makes a fresh-tasting but slightly fiery pesto, which is perfect over pasta or in ravioli parcels.

Spinach blinis with watercress pesto.
Published: June 5, 2022 at 7:00 am
  • Easy
  • Serves 4 - 5

Watercress both cooked and raw (soaked in vinegar first) is a great accompaniment to rich cheeses, and you can use a little as a pot-herb to add a peppery kick to otherwise bland soups or stews.

One of my favourite soups is made from watercress, and the base recipe at the start of my book works really well with the plant.

Another really simple and delicious way to eat watercress is blanched and served as a side vegetable with lemon and butter.

Wild watercress can sometimes be found on its own and at other times with potentially poisonous plants such as cowbane and water hemlock. Correct identification is therefore very important, as the two can tangle together and it's far too easy to pop the wrong one into your basket.

Another caution when it comes to eating watercress is the liver fluke parasite. You should always pick watercress from clear, running water, nowhere near grazing or dead animals, and take only the top part of the watercress, growing above the water line (this will also ensure that the plant replenishes).

Even then, you should soak your watercress in vinegar if you wish to eat it raw or blanch for ten minutes before using it cooked. Even supermarket watercress is not without its risk and there have been mass withdrawals of commercially sold watercress because of outbreaks of E. coli.


  • 100g Watercress, around 2 handfuls
  • 5 Wild garlic leaves, or 2tsp wild garlic flakes, or a clove of garlic
  • 1tbsp Toasted walnuts
  • 60ml Olive oil
  • 50g Grated parmesan, or 25g nutritional yeast flakes
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  • STEP 1

    Blanch the watercress and drain (though you can omit this step if you've soaked it in vinegar first).

  • STEP 2

    Add all the rest of the ingredients except the oil to the food processor and give it a blitz for one minute.

  • STEP 3

    Slowly add the oil, pulsing the mix until it forms a smooth pesto.

This recipe is an extract from Where The Wild Things Grow by David Hamilton, published by Hodder & Stoughton.

Where The Wild Things Grow Cover

Main image: Spinach blinis with watercress pesto. © Joy Skipper/Getty


David HamiltonForager, photographer and author

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