Lemon Balm Pesto Recipe
Written and Photographed by Juliet Blankespoor
The following recipe is a sneak peek excerpt from my debut book, The Healing Garden: Cultivating and Handcrafting Herbal Remedies, a detailed herbal reference, decadent cookbook, and garden manual all in one. This book is written for home gardeners and anyone looking to bring the therapeutic benefits of healing herbs into their garden, kitchen, and apothecary. You can purchase a copy of your own wherever books are sold. You can find more details on the book and its accompanying bonuses here.
Back in the day, when I ran an in-person herbal school, my students would pick one herb and give a presentation on its medicinal qualities along with a sample: a spot of tea, a taste of tincture, or sometimes a nibble of the plant. When a student told me she’d be preparing lemon balm pesto, I gave an encouraging smile, belying my apprehension. I am a decidedly adventurous eater, but this pesto felt wrong. Never have I been so happy to eat crow.
On the day of her presentation, I had to politely hold myself back from seconds to let others have a go. When my team was recipe-testing for my book, this pesto emerged as one of the recipe testers’ all-time favorites.
You’ll know just what to do with this pesto when you taste it. But to offer some starting points, may I suggest smothering it on broiled fish or rotisserie chicken. It holds its own snuggled up with pasta or even slathered on sourdough toast.
Lemon Balm Pesto Recipe
I recommend gathering lemon balm’s leaves earlier in the growing season when they are tender. Later in the summer, use only the young top leaves for pesto. Be sure to remove the leaves from the fibrous stem before adding them to the food processor. If you avoid cheese, substitute ½ cup nutritional yeast for the Parmesan. You’ll find this recipe in The Healing Garden book, along with a full profile on the cultivation & harvesting of lemon balm, and the medicinal uses of the herb.
- 3 cups (115 grams) packed fresh and tender lemon balm leaves (Melissa officinalis)
- 1 cup shelled roasted and salted pistachios
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3/4 cup (60 grams) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 3 to 5 garlic cloves, to taste
- A few pinches sea salt, to taste
Yield: 2 cups
Add all ingredients except the salt to a food processor and blend until uniform. Taste and add salt to your preference. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to one week or freeze for up to six months.
Want to learn more about using lemon balm medicinally and growing its green greatness?
This pesto is medicinal food at its finest. Want to learn about lemon balm’s uplifting medicinal benefits? Visit our Lemon Balm article on the blog, which is an additional excerpt from my new book, The Healing Garden: Cultivating and Handcrafting Herbal Remedies. You can purchase your copy anywhere books are sold! To learn more about the book (and the exceptional bonuses that come with it), visit The Healing Garden Gateway.
Meet The Green Mastermind Behind Blog Castanea
JULIET BLANKESPOOR is the founder, primary instructor, and Creative Director of the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine, an online school serving thousands of students from around the globe. She's a professional plant-human matchmaker and bonafide plant geek, with a degree in botany and over 30 years of experience teaching and writing about herbalism, medicine making, and organic herb cultivation. Juliet’s lifelong captivation with medicinal weeds and herb gardening has birthed many botanical enterprises over the decades, including an herbal nursery and a farm-to-apothecary herbal products business.
These days, she channels her botanical obsession through her writing and photography in her online programs, on her personal blog Castanea, and in her new book, The Healing Garden: Cultivating and Handcrafting Herbal Remedies. Juliet and her family reside in a home overrun with houseplants and books in Asheville, North Carolina.
© Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine and chestnutherbs.com, 2011-2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine and chestnutherbs.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
Want to take a deeper dive into medicinal herbs and their uses?
Our 1,000-hour Herbal Immersion Program is the most comprehensive handcrafted online herbal course available, covering botany, foraging, herb cultivation, medicine making, and therapeutics.