Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Wild Food #2: Gotu Kola Pesto

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Bron Marshall invites all of us to take a walk on the wild side, food-wise, with Wild Food, an exciting new food blogging event. I would have wanted to join the first round but I had difficulty luring an edible reptile into my kitchen, so I waited to see what the second round would bring. Well, the time has come and the theme is…Wild Weeds!

Hah! Weeds, or herbs, are much easier to catch then reptiles so I put on my hunting cap and went out into the wild world to see if I could capture some. Ok, truth be told I went to our city’s weekend market and bought some from the very nice man at my favorite herb stall. I thought of descending on his stall in my Lara Croft Herb-Raider outfit, but I didn’t want to scare off his other customers.

The herb I’m using for this entry, although I am not quite sure exactly how wild it is, is Gotu Kola, also known as: Asiatic Pennywort, Antanan, Pegaga, Kula kud, Brahmi (in Sanskrit, meaning the energy of Brahma), Creeping Saxifrage, and (my favorite) Blood Stopping Grass. It grows in wet places like marshlands, swamps, and paddy fields. That sounds pretty wild right?

Now, don’t think I went out and got some ordinary creeping swamp-dweller. Gotu Kola has been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for hundreds of years! It is known to improve memory (it’s a favorite of elephants!) and prevent ageing. It has also been used in treating leprosy and tuberculosis, as well as relieving the pain of rheumatism and arthritis. It has been called many things through the ages, such as: brain food, memory herb, the finest of all herb tonics, a pharmacy in one herb, and the elixir of life. In ancient China, it was a main ingredient in a medicinal blend called “fo ti tieng”, a mixture that was called the fountain of youth.

And to think the first time I discovered it (visiting a farm in Tagaytay) I just thought it was a cute salad green.

Gotu Kola is used in Sri Lankan cuisine, most often as a condiment to rice and curry. It can also be brewed into a tea. I have been tossing it into my salad all this time, but for this event I decided to do something different and made it into a pesto.

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Gotu Kola Pesto
  • 1/2 cup Gotu Kola leaves, remove all stems
  • 1/2 clove garlic (unless you like it really garlicky like I do, in which case use one whole clove)
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 heaping tablespoon pine nuts
  • 1/8 cup olive oil

- Place Gotu Kola, garlic, parmesan, and pine nuts the tall container that comes with your immersion blender, and process while slowly adding in the oil. Alternately, you can do this in a food processor.
- This will make enough pesto for one use, or two if you really want to stretch it.

I hardly ever make big batches of pesto nowadays because it’s not really C’s thing, and I can’t be counted on to finish a bottle by myself before it turns iffy. It’s better to have pesto fresh anyways. I had no idea what to expect of this Gotu Kola pesto. The leaves themselves are a bit sour with a slightly bitter kick, but I have tasted young leaves which are actually sweet in the beginning before ending in a spicy note. That’s why it’s great to mix in salads as it really adds dimension and character. The pesto was surprisingly delicate in flavor with the herbs characteristic astringency nicely muted. I can imagine this would make a great pasta dish…maybe with some peas. Or maybe toasted on some pan de sal (popular local bun) with some kesong puti (local fresh white cheese) Mmm…

You can learn more about Gotu Kola here, here, here, and here.

A legendary saying about Gotu Kola goes like this: “Two leaves a day, keeps old age away”. I used half a cup of leaves here (a lot more than just two leaves). That’s one serving, maybe two. You do the math. Wild.

34 comments:

Pille said...

How interesting - I've never heard of gotu kola before! An elixir of life? The fountain of youth? Sounds like a really worthy wild leaf!!

Manggy said...

Joey, you're so much braver than I am! Honestly, "sour kick with a little bitter.." doesn't appeal to me at all (I'm not a big fan of arugula). I like the herb-y taste of regular pesto. If I were to try a weed to taste, I might eat a fern. I've heard it tastes like asparagus, which I love.

I've not seen Choc&Zucch even last weekend at Fully Booked Power Plant. All the food bloggers snagged theirs already? I've figured out how to RSS feed your site, so I'm proud of myself today :)
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No Special Effects - http://manggy.blogspot.com

Anh said...

Very very interesting.. I have never heard of gotu kola! They sound very attractive though. Would love to try these leaves one day!

Michelle said...

I've never heard of gotu kola, but now I'll be looking for it!! :)

Freya and Paul said...

Lovely pictures and a fun article! I can imagine you stalking out this unusual weed!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Pille! Isn't it? I was happy when I discovered it, but even happier when I found out all those little tidbits about how healthy it is! :)

Hi Manggy! You are funny! No herb is safe with me, hehehe :) I'm not sure if Fully Booked has any copies left but ask customer service and if it's out of stock find out if it's on order, or if you can order a copy, they usually accomodate :) Ok, I haven't figured out RSS feed so you are a step ahead of me!

Hi Anh! They have quite a character...I like them raw in my salad, but after this pesto I may just experiment more :)

Hi Michelle! Let me know if you find it...and it seems to be easy to grow too :)

Thanks Freya and Paul! Yes, I have serious delusions of stalking/hunting my own food :)

Kelly-Jane said...

Well that was completely different! Well done for giving it a go, and the colour of the pesto is fantastic!!

Bron said...

Fantastic Joey! Looks beautiful!
Thanks so much for your WILD WEED entry!

Midge said...

Hi, Joey! Gotu kola pesto - interesting! I usually encounter the herb whenever I scout for aromatherapy and alternative medical stuff, but I didn't know you could use it in the kitchen. I should slip a few leaves into a salad one of these days.

M.Tan said...

I say, wear your Lara Croft Herb Raider outfit! It would have been a kick! Maybe they should do a costume market day, everyone dresses up!

Sounds like a great salad addition, did you get it at Herbana?

(note: my blogger thingy suddenly has all the instructions in tagalog! "Mag-post nang isang Komentaryo sa: 80 breakfasts" and all the comments start with "ayon kay ..." Is this a new thing? I never noticed they started translating.)

Ipshi said...

i really wanna make my own pesto... i think this just might be the push i needed... u know wat they say (meaning the spiritually inclined) when the student is ready ... the master appears.
Thanks for appearing master ;)

ChichaJo said...

Hi Kelly-jane! Thanks! :) I like to turn a lot of leftover greens into pesto...arugula, parsley, mint...it's a great way to use greens :)

Hi Bron! Thanks! :) Thank you for coming up with such an interesting theme!

Hi Midge! And when I encountered it I didn't even have a clue about all its medicinal values! Hehe :)

Hi Mila! I don't think the markets of this city are ready for Lara Croft Herb Raider ;) Yup, got it at Herbana. The farm in Tagaytay where I first found it is linked here as well. Nope, Blogger is not translating into Tagalog for me...interesting though! :)

Hi Ipshi! You are both so sweet and so funny! :) You totally made me laugh out loud! Hehehe :) Pesto is really easy to make, and it is easy to experiment and tweak in this small quantity here....just change the gotu kola to basil and you have your basic basil pesto. Then you can experiment with changing the greens as well as the nuts, and changing the quantities to suit your taste. Then you can make bigger batches and share :)

christine said...

Wow, I've never heard of Gotu Kola at all! But thanks to you I know all there is to know about it now. And it's so good to know considering how healthy it is! I have yet to try anything other than basil or arugula in a pesto. :)

Rasa Malaysia said...

Thanks for leaving me a comment. Your site is gorgeous with wonderful pictures...I have found a gem!

sha said...

haha 2 leaves a day.. let me ask the sri lankas i know here...
am back in france.. monday 6 days crossing to venice where we will cruise to croatia.

pille comment really tickles me
elixir.... hmmmm

Ipshi said...

what can i put instead of pine-nuts? i dont even know wat they r so i dont know where to look!! :(

ChichaJo said...

Hi Nens! I just chanced upon it in Tagaytay and got it because it looked pretty :) Ended up being tasty and healthy...love life's little surprises huh? :) You can use a lot of greens in pesto...My mom made a cilantro pesto before...not for the faint of heart, but I loved it!

Hi Rasa Malaysia! Thank you so much! :) I'm so happy I found your site!

Hi Sha! Let me know what your Sri Lankan friends say...and safe journey to you! :)

Hi Ipshi! The pine nuts are the little things that look a bit like seeds in my picture of the pesto, beside the pesto bottle :) You can substitute walnuts or pistachios...I'm sure other nuts would work as well, each lending their own distinct flavor, but walnuts and pistachios are the ones that I've already tried :)

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Sounds like that would absolutely be wild Joey! As much as I love basil, I'm learning that pesto can be so much more!

ChichaJo said...

Haha! Hi Tanna! Yes, pesto can go as far as your imagination :)

Chiara said...

What a surprise to see our humble gotu kola making an appearance! I'm Sri Lankan and we regularly eat gotu kola sambol [gotu kola, fresh grated coconut, onions, green chillies and lime] with rice. Now I'm dying to try out this pesto especially since gotu kola is more common than basil over here.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Chiara! So glad to hear you enjoyed this post :) I was veru happy to learn more about gotu kola and ways to use it...it's quite an herb! When I have a surfeit of greens (not just basil) I like to make them into pesto to "stretch" their life and their use. That gotu kola sambol sounds fantastic and like something I would really like...would you have a recipe? And other suggested uses? :)

S said...

I'm searching the net for a way to identify the true gotu kola plant. I now have 2 varieties and I'm still not sure if either one of them is the real thing. Any ideas who can help?

ChichaJo said...

Hi S! Are you based in Manila? I get my gotu kola from the Saturday Salcedo Market here in Makati...from the Herbana Farms stall. The purveyor, Gil Carandang, can answer any questions you might have about the herbs he carries :)

jean cruz said...

Oh hi, I live in Cottonwoods Antipolo and have plenty of Gotu Kola in my garden, giving it away for the rest to benefit as well. Let me know, if want to plant them. Check out my website www.soupoftheday.weebly.com I also blogged this herb. Would try the gotu kola pesto, i might like it and who knows maybe we can include in our pasta line or specialty soup!
Bond with me guys, will be coming up with real food revolution campaig ;)

ChichaJo said...

Hi Jean! Lucky you! I wish I could plant them but I live in an apartment with no balcony (not even a window box!) so plants are a bit tricky...Will check out your site!

Anonymous said...

i am desperate to find gotukola in USA.... do u know of any state that has it?

ChichaJo said...

Hi Anonymous! Since I don't live in the US I really don't know where you could find it over there. Sorry, wish I could be more help!

www.francistanseco.com said...

A very well written blog indeed, additionally, the blog is so concise and interesting. I am a big fan of herbs and I drink Gotu Kola as a tea on a regular basis (and yes it is tasteless).

I am very glad that I come across your blog and I would definitely try this pesto soon. Just a query if I may, do you know of a good Filipino herb book? Would be grateful if you can recommend one at least (the more the better though).

All the best!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Francis! Thanks for visiting! Wish I could help you out but I don't know of any Filipino herb book...if you find one let me know!

Chris and his Gotu Kola said...

Hello there! I actually grow Gotu Kola plants in my backyard.

I've been meaning to try them but I heard they taste awful. Your description (sour & bitter) sort of confirms it.

Maybe for your next pesto experimentation, you can just add a tinge of Gotu Kola, but still have Sweet Basil as your primary leaf.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Chris! I wouldn't say they taste awful :) In fact, I do think they add an interesting note in a green salad...and it was just fine in this pesto all by itself :)

Chris and his Sweet Basil said...

Hi ChichaJo! I'll buzz you if I ever strike up the courage to take a bite on my Gotu Kola. ;-)

Jelo said...

Hello Chichajo,

Gotu Kola is known locally in the Philippines as takip-kuhol and it is used widely in Vietnam as a cure or preventative for/of rheumatic pains. You can make a really refreshing herbal-vegetal tasting beverage by taking a handful of plucked and washed leaves and blitzing it in a blender with cracked ice and simple syrup. After blitzing, strain. An awesome restorative on hot days.

Kind regards,

Jelo

ChichaJo said...

Hi Jelo! Thanks for all the good information on gotu kola! :) That drink does sound good right about now!