How to Use Up Garden Scraps with a Zero Waste Pesto Recipe

Do you love to garden but hate the waste that you’re left with after harvest? Zero waste pesto recipe is the perfect solution to use up the typical garden discards in a delicious way.

How to Use Up Garden Scraps Deliciously

2020 is my first year gardening and I’ve been so excited to be more resourceful and less wasteful. Anyone who knows me know that I love to find new ways to use up things that typically get thrown out.

My friend Petra over at Erratic Engineeress has a meta post about cooking food scraps that I recommend checking out. She also recommends making pesto from extra greens!

how to use up garden scraps with zero waste pesto

Recipe Inspiration

A few months ago, I went down a rabbit hole looking for ways to use food waste other than composting. I found inspiration for my banana compost tea recipe, as well as ideas to use up rhubarb and also a recipe for carrot top pesto from Yup It’s Vegan. Unfortunately, my carrots have barely come in this summer but my radishes are thriving.

Well, my radish tops are thriving at least. My soil was premium bought from a local greenhouse, loaded with manure and natural compost. Regardless of the love I put into my soil, it’s been hot and rainy this summer. My soil compacted. It’s been yielding just OK crops that grow underground (aka root vegetables).

On the bright side, the tops of my radishes, beets and lettuce have been doing incredibly. After my first crop of radishes failed, I harvested the leaves and tried again. This time, though small I did get a few radishes so far. They are thriving on top and surviving on the bottom.

how to use up garden scraps with zero waste pesto

The Zero Waste Recipe

So with inspiration from Yep It’s Vegan and a dream, I turned my 2 cups of radish stems into a rich and delicious pesto.

It goes without saying that this doesn’t taste like traditional basil pesto, but it is none the less a delicious way to use up radish stems that would otherwise end up in the garbage.

This zero waste recipe needs only a handful of ingredients and they’re very customizable. The template recipe is:

  • 2 cups greens, packed
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/4 lemon, juiced and zested
  • 1/4 cup nuts of choice
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the nuts, I used pine nuts because I’d bought some to make pesto a few months back. You could easily use almonds, pistachios, macadamia nuts or, in a pinch, walnuts/pecans. I love the taste the pine nuts give but anything really will work. This is a recipe about being resourceful and waste free, after all.

Using good olive oil is important because you will taste it. Beyond that, good oil delivers better nutrients than oils that are overly processed.

In a pinch, you could use packaged lemon juice but it really doesn’t give the same flavour. It tastes more acidic and artificial in my opinion. For my first batch, I just used the juice and not the zest and adding zest gives it a much more rounded flavour. I would highly recommend it.

Optional Recipe Changes to Elevate the Final Product

For the garlic, it’s perfectly okay to put in raw. Personally, I like a lightly roasted garlic clove to but back on how harsh it is. How you decide to do this will depend entirely on your preference as well as how you want to serve your pesto and with what you serve it.

For the nuts, I also threw them in raw. It adds a nice richness to the dish if you lightly toast them first but this is entirely optional. I prefer them raw but have tried it both ways.

Finally, I opt to use a food processor to combine the pesto out of pure laziness. You could use a high powered blender for equally good results. If you want to be traditional, you can also use a mortar and pestle though this requires a lot of work – also much more time. It may make a more flavourful pesto but I personally do not care enough to do this.

how to use up garden scraps with zero waste pesto

This is almost too simple of a recipe to be considered a recipe, but it can be a useful template for people who don’t know what to do with their garden “scraps”.

pesto garden scraps
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4 from 1 vote

Zero Waste Greens Pesto

A recipe for a pesto using leftover "scrap" greens from your garden. I used radish tops, but carrot tops or other leafy greens can be substituted without problem.
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Italian
Keyword pesto, zero waste
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 444kcal


  • Food Processor, Blender or Mortar and Pestle


  • 2 cups greens radish stems, carrot tops, etc
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 lemon juiced and zested
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts other nuts may be substituted
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese freshly grated
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup olive oil good quality preferred
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • Combine all ingredients except olive oil in a food processor or blender. Blend to combine, adding in the olive oil slowly until desired texture is achieved.


This pesto recipe can be doubled, tripled or multiplied depending on your needs.
If you make it in a large batch, it can be frozen if the parmesan cheese is left out. A good substitute would be nutritional yeast to ensure it can be frozen, or it can be added once the pesto is thawed.
Do not microwave the pesto to thaw it, allow it to come to temperature naturally or it will cook the herbs/leaves and ruin the taste and texture.
If you’re going to use this for hot dishes, add the pesto at the last minute so it doesn’t lose it’s fresh raw taste.


Calories: 444kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 48g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 4mg | Sodium: 106mg | Potassium: 85mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 276IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 77mg | Iron: 1mg

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