Garlic Mustard Pesto

My classmates and I began the ecology portion of the Calumet Quarter with a discussion about stewardship. During this discussion, we utilized Chicago Wilderness’s definition of stewardship: “conserving, managing, monitoring, advocating for, or educating others about local environments” (Westphal et al.). As we approach the end of the Calumet Quarter, I gratefully reflect upon the numerous stewards that we met and who shared with us their knowledge of the Calumet region. Some of these stewards include: current and former graduate students in ecology and evolution from The University of Chicago, Laura Merwin and Erin Grey, the director of the nonprofit organization Save the Dunes, Nicole Barker, an archaeologist who studies past and present aboriginal cultures of North America, Jim Brown, and The City of Chicago’s Deputy Commissioner for Sustainability, Aaron Koch.

This past Friday, Blaire and I had the opportunity to be educated yet again by informed stewards: Calumet is My Backyard (CIMBY) students, high school students from the South Side of Chicago. They attend high schools that participate in CIMBY, a joint program of The Field Museum’s Action Science Center and its Youth Conservation Action work and Chicago Public Schools Learning Initiative, by sponsoring a specific natural area in the Calumet Region.   After the areas have been sponsored, the students participate in the CIMBY program during the school year by doing a variety of activities, from ecological restoration to classroom lessons and leadership training. Blaire and I got to see the product of the students’ hard work this past Friday, when CIMBY students presented their findings and experiences with stewardship at the CIMBY Science Summit at the Field Museum. I learned a lot from listening to the students, especially when it comes to making Garlic Mustard Pesto.

The George Washington High School CIMBY class of 2014 taught me that one creative way to get rid of invasives in the Calumet region is to eat them. Before giving me a delicious sample of their Garlic Mustard Pesto, the George Washington High School students told me about why it is important to remove the species. They termed Garlic Mustard “a serious threat” to the Chicago area’s native ecosystems and explained that in order to get rid of it you have to uproot the plant and dispose of it in plastic bags. They were inspired to make a delicious pesto recipe with Garlic Mustard because the original reason why garlic mustard was brought to the US was to use it as an herb in cooking. Students used Garlic Mustard in the following recipe.

3 cups Garlic Mustard leaves

2 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

1 cup of Walnuts

1 cup of Olive Oil

1 ¼ cup of grated Parmesan Cheese

Salt and Pepper to taste

The students served this sauce over pasta and Blaire and I were lucky enough to get a sample. The pesto was delicious. The Garlic Mustard, to my surprise, didn’t have an overpowering taste, and in fact, the pesto tasted similarly to regular pesto. The sample definitely made me want to make my own Garlic Mustard pesto. Aside from learning that Garlic Mustard is a tasty invasive, I really enjoyed hearing about each student’s unique experience with nature in the Chicago area. Unanimously, each student I spoke with said that they really enjoyed the CIMBY program because it allowed them to get outside and learn without being confined to a classroom. From each of these student’s explorations, I learned a bit about them, their nature experiences, and what they had learned about the Calumet region. Thanks to these stewards, I have gained more knowledge about the Calumet.

One Response to “Garlic Mustard Pesto”

  1. jane

    Cool! I just learned that I had garlic mustard growing in my back yard, and that it is an invasive species. Perhaps I’ll whip up some GM pesto this weekend!

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