The carbon, slavery, and deforestation on your toast (and a better way)

Meet: Pesto Toast

I’m so old I remember when avocados were fairly exotic. Pronouncing ‘guacamole’ was a struggle for even the more cultured white person. Nowadays, I see Costco carts loaded with multiple bulk packs of the creamy fruit, destined for smoothies, tacos, and, of course, toast. It’s a very first food for countless babies and the day’s first meal for career hustlers around the country. 

Bottom line: avocado production has a high carbon footprint because of the inputs needed and the land (forests) diverted to make room to grow for the huge demand. The water needed to grow the crop is also substantial and often in areas that don’t have water to spare–California, Mexico, and Chile. (Learn more, here.) Avocados are a seasonal item, so costs involved in providing a steady year-round avocado supply are higher than ensuring constant availability of seasonal items that store well, like potatoes, onions, and garlic.

Then there are the labor issues (not unique to avocado farming, of course), cartel demands, and even the exploited work of the bees.

Avocados aren’t the devil, and there are Fair-Trade options that are certainly a better choice, but here’s an alternative that utilizes whatever you have on hand and provides a way to use all the kale and greens available at the farmers’ markets (and often available year-round thanks to local greenhouses). Get your greens and eat your toast, too. This is a free-form recipe so run with it, experiment and revise based on what you have and what you find you like.

Spread pesto on toast and top with sliced radish, tomatoes, fresh herbs, cucumber, zucchini, edible flowers, sesame seeds, flaky sea salt, and cracked pepper. When the fresh selection is more limited, top with sun-dried tomatoes, pickled radish/vegetables, kimchi, roasted sweet potato, and sliced tofu/tempeh. And if you have a greens glut? Make the pesto ahead and keep it frozen for the winter months!

Favorite pesto base combinations:

  • Roasted sunflower seeds, arugula, grapeseed oil
  • Almonds, kale, extra garlic
  • Sunflower seeds, Basil/kale, olive oil
  • Pumpkin seeds, cilantro/flat-leaf parsley, sunflower oil, red chili flakes
  • Pea shoots or microgreens also make a terrific base for green pesto!



Herby Pesto For Toast

Spread this green pesto on your next piece of toast! Add a little plant milk and it’s a quick pasta sauce.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup nuts or seeds, or mix
  • 1-4 cloves garlic or scapes/green garlic
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 5 ounces greens, herbs, or a mix about 2 cups
  • 1/4 cup oil, olive or grapeseed
  • 1/4 cup water
  • salt + pepper

Instructions

  • In food processor, pulse nuts/seeds until they are well-ground, but not so much that they turn into butter.
    Add garlic and nutritional yeast and continue to pulse until mixture looks like uniform crumbs.
    Add greens/herbs and pulse until greens are totally chopped and mixture again looks uniform and evenly blended.
    Turn machine on and pour in olive oil, then water. Scrape down the bowl, add salt and pepper, and pulse a few more times.
    Store in refrigerator. Basil pesto will turn brown when exposed to air–pour a layer of oil over pesto then cover with wrap or a lid.

Notes

  • I’ve only made this using a food processor but a strong blender would probably work too.
  • I use sunflower seeds or almonds, salted/roasted are fine, just watch how much salt is added at the end
  • Kale, arugula, Swiss Chard, and pea shoots all make great green pesto
  • Basil is great on its own or mixed with greens; a blend of cilantro + flat-leaf parsley plus some dried red chili flakes is delicious
  • Mix herbs + greens together based on what you have!
 


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