torta verde with jack by the hedge

I’ve been taking a tip from resourceful Italians again, adding foraged greens to the first meagre pickings from the garden and adding them to ricotta and parmesan for a tasty pie.


I have to admit that I didn’t actually venture far from the garden in ‘foraging’ for this pie though. While gardening I keep noticing Jack-by-the-hedge springing out everywhere. It obviously says a lot about my shoddy weeding that it’s more a case of Jack-by-the-compost heap, Jack-by-the-ox-eye-daisies and, more annoyingly, Jack-by-the-raspberries.


With so many ‘weeds’ about, I’ve decided the best approach is to eat them. No point fretting about all those pesky weeds, best to just bake a pie with them. So I set to enthusiastically picking the top leaves of some of the Jack-by-the-hedge, adding them to the ever-trusty chard, cavolo nero, leaves of the perpetual spinach that is fast going to seed, rocket, a few tender nettles (they’re mainly too big now though) and some of the beet tops that soon need pulling up. Soon I had quite a pile of healthy greens in the kitchen.


Jack-by-the-hedge is also known as poor man’s mustard, hedge garlic and wild mustard and has a high Vitamin A & C content. The leaves, white flowers and seed pods are all edible but I use mainly the upper leaves. They have a bitter taste, but like kale, nettles and rocket are great with parmesan and ricotta in pasta sauces, pesto and pie fillings.


I made a jar of pesto, mainly with the Jack-by-the-hedge and the rocket, with pumpkin seeds, olive oil and parmesan, using the same sort of quantities as in wild garlic pesto or the kale pesto I made here.

I love this sort of green mixture in a wild greens filo pastry pie too, but maybe a week including children’s parties and a fair bit of indulgent eating had me craving the healthy option of a Torta Verde, where the dough/pastry base is made from olive oil and flour. I wrote about Torta Verde here for Smallholder magazine, when describing how we can learn a lot from Ligurians in foraging our way out of the hungry gap. This version was crammed full of greens, yet as usual when ricotta and parmesan are involved, scoffed happily by my 5 year old. Despite still viewing greens with suspicion in lots of dishes, Ruby loves pesto too, hence my passion for making it with whatever greens are seasonal.

Leftovers are proving very handy for lunches, slices transport easily and so are great for picnics. So I’d like to enter it in the lovely seasonal Four Seasons Food Challenge hosted by Anneli of Delicieux and Louisa of Chez Foti.


And as this makes use of very seasonal weeds, would love to enter it for Ren Behan’s June Simple and in Season.



Recipe for Torta Verde

Pastry/dough base:

200g strong white bread flour

3 tablespoons olive oil

Pinch salt

80 ml warm water

For the filling::

400g of greens (any mixture of jack-by-the-hedge, nettles, chard, cavolo nero, spinach can be used)

100g ricotta cheese

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

8 tablespoons grated parmesan (or

similar hard English cheese)

To make pastry, sift flour into large mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the oil and salt and mix well, adding warm water a little at a time to form a soft, not sticky dough. Wrap in clingfilm and pop in the fridge while you make the filling.

Wash the greens well and barely cook in the water left clinging to them until they wilt. Drain and squeeze out excess water. Chop finely (I find this easy to do with scissors) then add to ricotta, mix with egg and nutmeg. Mix in half of the parmesan and season with salt and pepper to taste.


Roll the pastry out to fill a well-greased deep cake tin or pie dish, fill the middle with green/ricotta filling and crimp around the edges – I do this very clumsily, but then this is a very rustic pie. Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 40 mins in an oven preheated to 180 C.


This was scoffed happily by all of us. Even if Guy now eyes me suspiciously when he sees me with a bucket of weeds on an evening. Not realising I’m heading for the compost heap, he wonders if I’m harvesting dinner.

Obviously, if you’re using wild greens for this pie, make sure you have a good book for identification or are with an experienced forager. You can of course fill Torta Verde with completely home-grown cultivated greens too.

22 thoughts on “torta verde with jack by the hedge

  1. I’ve been making lots of ‘weed and herb’ pesto, but your torta would make a nice alternative way to use the greens – no shortage of Jack-by-the-hedge, or a whole range of other weeds, here!

    • Weeds do seem to be one thing I seem able to grow very well. And those great herbs that love rubbish soil! You never know though, maybe in just a few weeks we’ll be harvesting veggies too!

  2. Hurray! It’s good to see the Weed and Cheese combo working for you too. Looks fabulous. “I embrace the weeds. I cherish the weeds…”

    • Totally agree with your “embrace the weeds” approach! Have found myself looking at pineapple weed thinking of jelly. Your cheese and weed pie looks so delicious too by the way.

  3. What an interesting and unique recipe! I have never heard of this type of pie before but it looks really good. You have a wonderful mixture of greens in there – completely delicious! Thanks for entering this into Four Seasons Food, it’s just lovely!

    • Thanks lots for your comments Anneli and for including me in Four Seasons Food. I think the pie tasted all the better knowing so much of it was free!

  4. Sounds tasty. I must do some foraging soon – I certainly have plenty of weeds here! Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Thanks. It feels like the right thing to do when everything’s so lush yet there’s a wait for beans and courgettes from the garden.

  5. I too haven’t heard of a Torta Verde but it sounds wonderful, and I’m so going to remember it for the future! What a fabulous way to use up such an abundance (and variety) of weeds and homegrown greenery. And thanks so much for entering it to the new Four Seasons Food challenge, perfect!

    • Thanks for including me in your challenge, it’s a great idea. I bet you have so much wild greenery as well as the trusty chard to use?

  6. Fantastic Andrea! I would like to be good at foraging….the only weed that I recognize is nettle!!! I also use my greens to make some quick healthy dishes, but I’ve never tried to bake a pastry base without butter….very interesting.

    • I’m only gradually trying to be a bit more adventurous in the weeds I cook Rita – a tad cautious as I only want to feed my family with the ones I’m sure about. I bet you have some lovely Italian wild green recipes, with pasta too?

  7. That looks great. I usually never bother with pastry but that looks like something I could deal with. Might have to try it this weekend!

  8. I love that it’s ‘poor man’s mustard’. I’ve been meaning to pick a load near me for a while. Love your tart.

  9. Wonderful idea – I’m always on the look out for new recipes to use weeds, especially nettles as I seem to get stung quite often and feel it’s pay back time if I can make something from them that tastes good.

  10. Thanks Anne and I totally agree, particularly as I seem very good at growing lots of lush weeds at the moment! Like the look of your nettles recipes too.

  11. Pingback: Simple and in Season June Event Round Up (Part One) - Ren Behan

  12. Pingback: Four Seasons Food June Round Up | Delicieux

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *