“Lots of Parsley”

“Lots of Parsley”

Although we are focusing on roots in our garden this fall, we have a large bunch of Italian parsley growing in our box. It would a shame to not put it to good use, so we’ve decided to make Parsley Pesto with the kids.


What does “pesto” mean?

Traditional pesto is a sauce originating in northern Italy. “Pesto” is the contracted past participle of pestâ (“to pound, to crush”, from the same Latin root as the English word “pestle”) in reference to the sauce’s crushed herbs and garlic. Most people imagine Basil when they hear the word pesto. But you can make pesto with other herbs as well. Pesto is a generic term for any kind of pounded paste. The leaf that is pounded can vary. I’ve even read of pesto made with radish leaves!
What is a mortar and pestle?

A mortar and pestle is a tool used to crush, grind, and mix substances. The pestle is a heavy bat shaped stick whose end is used for pounding and grinding, and the mortar is a bowl, typically made of hard wood, marble, clay, or stone.

The English “mortar” derives from classical Latin “mortarium”, meaning, among several other usages, “receptacle for pounding” and “product of grinding or pounding”. The classical Latin “pestillum” led to the English “pestle”, meaning “pounder”.

Where do the ingredients come from? Briefly discuss the history and origin of each ingredient (use a world map).

The parsley we are using today was harvested from our school garden!

Lemons grow on small, evergreen trees originally from Asia. Today, most of the world’s lemons come from India. The lemons we are using today came from California.

Garlic, also know as the “stinking rose” is a species in the onion family. Garlic has been used throughout recorded history for both culinary and medicinal purposes. It grows as a bulb; the individual parts of the bulb are called “cloves.” We have garlic growing in our school garden, and in fact tasted some of that garlic last week. Today’s garlic was grown in CA. Most of the world’s garlic is grown in China.

Olive oil is a fruit oil obtained from the olive. It’s a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean region. Our olive oil today comes from Italy.

Pine nuts are the edible seeds of pines. About 20 species of pine produce seeds large enough to be worth harvesting; in other pines the seeds are also edible, but are too small to be of great value as a human food. (Bring in a pine cone to show the nuts.) The pine nuts we are using today come from South Korea or Russia (via Trader Joe’s.)

Sea Salt comes from evaporated sea water. A salt evaporation pond (or saltern pond) is a man-made shallow pond, usually located near the sea. The ponds can be filled with salt water. The water is then left to evaporate. The salt is left behind, and can be harvested. There are a number of these ponds in San Francisco bay area. These ponds can be very colorful. The color in the pond tells how much salt there is left in the water. Green colors come from special algae. These algae are there in low to mid salinity ponds (ponds with little salt in the water). In middle to high salinity ponds, an alga called Dunaliella salina shifts the color to red. Millions of tiny brine shrimp create an orange cast in mid-salinity ponds. Other bacteria such as Stichococcus also contribute tints. These colors are especially interesting to airplane passengers or astronauts passing above due to their somewhat artistic formations of shape and color. The sea salt we are using today comes from South Africa (via Trader Joe’s.)


  • scissors and bowl for harvesting parsley
  • ingredients for pesto (see below)
  • wooden spoon, spatula
  • measuring implements
  • cutting board and knives
  • mortar and pestle
  • food processor
  • small iron skillet
  • hot plate
  • extension cord
  • sliced bread
  • knives for spreading pesto
  • pine cones
  • world map
  • table cloth


This are the ingredients we’ll be using today:

1 cup de-stemmed Italian parsley (from California)
4 tablespoons lemon juice (also from California)
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted (from Korea or Russia)
2 garlic cloves, minced (from California)
3 tablespoons olive oil (from Italy)
pinch of sea salt (from South Africa)

We need to triple this recipe in order to make enough for the class. How do we do this? What does it mean to “triple” something? (And what does it mean to double and quadruple?) Make a table to illustrate this concept.

Toast the pine nuts (or pre toast them at home)
De-stem the parsley
Crush the pine nuts, garlic and parsley in the mortar and pestle in order to learn the traditional method of making pesto.
Squeeze the lemons to extract the juice.
Add all the ingredients to the food processor. Blend.
Serve slathered on a slice of bread!


1. a tool for pounding or grinding substances in a mortar.

1. to pound or grind with or as if with a pestle.

Origin: The classical Latin “pestillum” meaning “pounder” led to the English “pestle”, meaning “pounder.”

Some synonyms for “pestle” from the thesaurus: