It turns out that one of pesto's most crucial ingredients is very far from environmentally sound. Uh-oh
Sad news, pesto-pasta lovers. Your number one go-to sauce is not as harmless as we all thought.
Turns out, the uplifting blend of basil, parmesan, pine nuts and olive oil could be crashing an entire ecosystem.
In a piece for The New York Times, forestry expert and leading figure in the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society, Jonathan C Slaght, revealed that the global demand for pine nuts, specifically from the Korean pine trees found in southern parts of the Russian far east, is causing horrendous damage to the plant species and the animals that live off them.
Pine trees play a key role in sustaining the natural habitat: chipmunks, bears, red deer and boar all need the nuts to survive, but with the volume so depleted by excess pine nut harvesting, they're not getting enough food.
This is arguably the cause of reports of hungry wildlife heading into Russian towns in search of something to eat.
And why are the pine trees in such high demand? Because the price of pine nuts is growing, too.
"The entire Korean pine ecosystem could collapse if it continues," says Slaght.
So, what's the solution?
To ensure we're not fuelling the issue, try subbing out pine nuts in your pesto for creamy cashews, pistachios or almonds.
The big issue here is that chefs and food-lovers alike often take the problematic stance: "That's how pesto is made, and we'll stick with the original recipe, thanks."
Let's hope that a little tweak to our favourite pesto recipes will be embraced on the international culinary scene. Those bears need dinner just as much as us.
Here are some pine-nut-free pesto recipes to try. They're just as delicious – promise.
1. Walnut and basil pesto
2. Pistachio pesto
Via: Maja Smend
3. Avocado and cashew pesto
Like this? Then try these:
- 12 ways to make pesto (without a basil leaf in sight)
- Is re-heated pasta better for you?
- 5 things to do with gnocchi
And for more fun foodie stuff direct to your inbox, sign up to our weekly newsletter