Make great pesto from herbs, greens and nuts: Coriander & Mizuna Pesto, Mint & Pumpkin Seed Pesto, Chilli Pesto

It’s time to get creative with those herbs and garden greens. 

Words: Kristina Jensen

The older I get, the more I’m into the greens. Not just politically. I’ve started a new habit, eating two salads in one meal. I graze my way around the garden while I pick ingredients for the bowl which will make it onto the dinner table.

I get to munch on a fantastically super-fresh range of minerals and vitamins with each tender green or purple leaf I eat. Herb and salad plants have been the basis of all the edible gardens I’ve created over the last 10 years, as we’ve moved homes.

Oddly, we often seem to move in April. I’ve gained a lot of experience starting a new garden in a rapidly-cooling climate, with new soil type, weather conditions, and fencing challenges. It’s also meant taking on a wide range of creatures that want to eat whatever I’m growing.

In the Sounds, that can be as small as a weka or a pūkeko, or as large as a determined pig, goat or deer.  I’ll be out in the garden before we’ve established who is sleeping where in a new home. I need to start digging.

I prefer the ‘easy’ stuff that grows quickly. This way, a new garden is almost immediately productive, full of a wide range of green, edible leaves. My favourites include miner’s lettuce, red coral and green mizuna, sorrel, tatsoi, coriander, baby kale, corn salad, and rocket.

Microclima is my best friend. It is a protective plastic garden mesh (available from Polynet Products, It sits on hoops that cover the growing areas, giving just enough warmth to encourage seeds to grow through winter.

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Pesto tickles my taste buds. The variety of different greens in my garden means every batch is a little different, especially when the spicy mustard taste of a plant such as red coral mizuna is thrown in.

Traditionally, ‘pesto’ is almost any mix of herbs pounded together and poured over pasta. We’ve extended its use to new potatoes, wraps, pizza, as a dip with crackers and chips, stirred into rice or quinoa, and as an ingredient in muffins and pinwheels.

Pesto is expensive to buy but cheap to make if you have a ready supply of green, leafy ingredients. My summers need a lot of pesto. We’re either entertaining or I am organising food for beach picnics.

I make big batches of pesto and freeze it in little plastic jars (like yeast containers) so it’s ready for any occasion and thaws quickly.

These recipes are a great way to use up a surplus of green herbs and/or chillies. All are dairy-free, freeze well, and go with anything savoury.

Coriander & Mizuna Pesto

Makes 250g approximately
Ready in 10 minutes


2 cups fresh coriander, roughly chopped
1 cup green or red coral mizuna, roughly chopped
1 cup lightly toasted coconut
¼ cup melted coconut oil
¼ cup olive oil
1 cup almonds
1 tsp sea salt
4 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste


Use a food processor or a stick mixer to blend all ingredients to the desired texture.

Mint & Pumpkin Seed Pesto

Makes 250g approximately
Ready in 10 minutes


1 cup mint leaves, packed
½ cup parsley, packed
2 cloves garlic
1 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ tsp salt
freshly ground pepper

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Use a food processor or a stick mixer to blend all ingredients to the desired texture.

Chilli Pesto

Makes 250g approximately
Ready in 10 minutes


1 cup olive oil
2 big handfuls fresh parsley, coriander and/or mint
8 cloves of garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp cumin powder
2 cups chopped fresh chillies
1 cup roasted almonds, walnuts or sunflower seeds
¼ cup lemon juice


Use a food processor or a stick mixer to blend all ingredients to the desired texture.


• If you are a pesto purist, you use a mortar and pestle. However, it is much quicker and easier to use a food processor. I usually make a surplus to freeze, so the food processor wins for efficiency. If you halve these recipes, a stick mixer will do the job.
• These recipes are all dairy-free, but you can add Parmesan or feta cheese if you like.
• Any kind of nuts and seeds can be used, toasted or raw – I experimented with toasted coconut and it turned out to be a delicious partner with the spicy red coral mizuna.
• If you’re on a budget, use rice bran or peanut oil; if not, a boutique olive oil is delicious.

NZ Lifestyle Block This article first appeared in NZ Lifestyle Block Magazine.
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