This Lebanese Wild Fennel Pesto recipe is not your typical pesto. The addition of dates and hazelnuts makes a delicious spread that pairs amazingly with goat cheese and seedy crackers. A variation of this recipe was shared by a friend Heather, and was passed on to her from a Lebanese friend. I loved the recipe so much, and the fact that it uses a widely available ‘weed’ I wanted to share it onwards.
Eat your weeds with this simple wild fennel pesto recipe! So many of our invasive weeds are edible including the beloved Blackberry Bush and the familiar Dandelion weed (see Wild Edibles – Dandelions, How To Harvest and Women’s Health). Wild Fennel is a common weed originating from the Mediterranean, and while it resembles dill, it offers a distinct anise, or licorice, aroma and flavour. This Lebanese Wild Fennel Pesto Recipe uses freely available weeds, combined with local Vancouver Island hazelnuts for a truly local dish.
”Many weeds are edible, this wild fennel pesto recipe uses a common weed to make a simple appetizer or tasty snack. Wild fennel has been used for centuries as a spice and in herbal medicine.”
Why I Made This Lebanese Wild Fennel Pesto Recipe
Wild Fennel Is Freely Available
You have likely come across wild fennel many times, in your backyard, in an open field, or trailing your favourite walking path. Wild Fennel differs from the fennel bulb that we find in supermarkets – with wild fennel you can keep digging but you won’t find an edible bulb.
Wild Fennel As Medicine
Herbalists will prescribe fennel for increasing lactation, promoting menstruation, facilitating birth, and increasing libido. It is also used for upper respiratory tract infections, coughs, bronchitis, cholera, backache, bedwetting, dyspepsia, flatulence, bloating, loss of appetite, and visual problems. Clinical evidence suggests that fennel is possibly effective for relieving colic in infants (1,2).
Wild Fennel and Anise Flavour
Anise, or licorice, can be an acquired taste, but when prepared properly such as in this pesto the strong anise flavour is mellowed by the sweetness of the dates and creaminess of the hazelnuts.
When we talk about eating locally, we presume that all nuts are grown in far off places. We are so blessed on Vancouver Island to have access to the humble hazelnut and hazelnut farms can be found across Vancouver Island. Hazelnuts are harvested in autumn, but once dried they can be purchased year-round from local suppliers.
Health Benefits of Hazelnuts
Hazelnuts, like all nuts, come with a vast array of health benefits. Consumption has been attributed to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease hazelnuts, a decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and they can also help lower post-meal spikes in blood sugar levels (3).
Harvesting Wild Fennel
Where To Harvest Wild Fennel
Wild Fennel is more common than you think, ask your friends and relatives and they may have some growing in their backyard. Wild fennel is also commonly found along walking paths.
How To Harvest Wild Fennel
Harvest your wild fennel from a clean source, away from roadsides and sprayed agricultural fields. If you have never harvested wild fennel before and want to experiment with any fennel recipe, harvest with someone who is familiar with it to ensure proper identification.
Tips On This Wild Fennel Pesto Recipe
Preparing The Wild Fennel
Clean the wild fennel and remove any discoloured fronds. The stems can remain and there is no need to remove them. Roughly chop the wild fennel before adding it to the blender to help with the blending process and to ensure a smoother consistency.
Using A Vitamix
This pesto tastes best when a creamy consistency is achieved and chopping the fennel beforehand can help with this. I find a Vitamix results in the smoothest consistency but a food processor can work too. If using a food processor more liquid (oil or water) may need to be added to achieve a smooth consistency. A chunky consistency is better suited towards a wild fennel pasta.
Using Fennel Fronds
If you don’t have access to wild fennel, you can use the fronds of the common fennel bulb that can be found in supermarkets in season.
Fennel Pesto Recipe with Almonds
This recipe originated from a friend of a friend. The original Lebanese Wild Fennel Pesto recipe uses almonds and they can replace the hazelnuts in this recipe.
Adjusting The Flavour
This is not your typical pesto. Adjust the sweetness by changing the number of dates. Use only a small amount of salt as to not confuse the flavours.
What To Serve This Wild Fennel Pesto Recipe With
This Lebanese Wild Fennel Pesto is so versatile. Here are a few of my favourite ways to enjoy it:
- Serve with some soft goat cheese on some seedy crackers (try these Homemade Low Carb Seed Crackers)
- Make a wild fennel pesto penne pasta
- Have this wild fennel pesto on baked salmon
- Have this wild fennel pesto baked on a flatbread as an appetizer
- Make an orzo and goat cheese wild fennel pesto salad
- Make a wild fennel pesto pizza topped with feta or goat cheese
Notes On This Wild Fennel Pesto Recipe
A Vegan Wild Fennel Pesto
This fennel pesto recipe is naturally vegan and plays on the sweet flavour of the dates. It does not contain the typical savouriness that comes from parmesan cheese in traditional pestos.
Freezing This Wild Fennel Pesto Recipe
Make this fennel pesto recipe in bulk and freeze in mason jars for future use. Defrost before use and use per above.
Lebanese Wild Fennel Pesto Recipe
- 3 cups wild fennel packed
- 10 dates soaked*
- 1/2 cup hazelnuts whole
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil extra virgin
- If your dates are hard, option to soak them in hot water for a few minutes while preparing the other ingredients. This will help the dates blend easier.
- Roughly chop the wild fennel. Add all of the ingredients into a high-speed blender or food processor. Process until the pesto ingredients are well incorporated and a smooth consistency forms.
- Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Make a large batch and freeze in individual containers to enjoy throughout the year.
1 Weizman Z, Alkrinawi S, Goldfarb D, et al. (1993) Efficacy of herbal tea preparation in infantile colic. Journal of Pediatrics
2 Elgayyar, M., Draughon, F. A., Golden, D. A., and Mount, J. R. (2001) Antimicrobial activity of essential oils from plants against selected pathogenic and saprophytic microorganisms. Journal of Food Protection
3 David J. A. Jenkins (2008) Possible Benefit of Nuts in Type 2 Diabetes. The Journal of Nutrition
Rachel Dickens, The Conscious Dietitian, is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She graduated with her Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2010 from Griffith University. She strives to provide evidence-based nutrition information with a focus on plant-based nutrition and share some of her favourite seasonal recipes and sustainable eating tips.