Tender young greens are sprouting up all over the place right now (in the Bay Area at least!). We love this time of year as some of our favorite perennial and wild leafy greens start to leaf out and become available for colorful salads or just lightly wilted at the end of cooking. There are many benefits to eating seasonally with fresh produce from farmer’s markets and CSA’s. There is also a beauty to eating the wild foods that grow around you, and Spring is the season when wild edible plants are most abundant and the most tender. Some of our favorites coming up right now are Stinging Nettles, Nasturtium, Sorrel, Shungiku (Edible Chrysanthemum), Dandelion, Chicory, Miner’s Lettuce and Chickweed. It’s important to know which plants are poisonous (like hemlock!) and which are edible so go on a plant walk with someone who knows or check out a field guide, like The Flavor of Home by Margit Roos-Collins.
Here are a couple of ways that Finn likes to use wild greens:
Stinging Nettle Vinegar
An herbal vinegar is a way to get the benefits of a plant without eating it directly, in case you don’t find wild greens to be super palatable. By making an herbal vinegar you are essentially creating a tincture that you can use in your cooking in an everyday way.
To make Stinging Nettle Vinegar, harvest a large bowl full of Stinging Nettles (while wearing gloves and a long sleeved shirt!) Chop the nettles up finely and place them in a clean mason jar. Top the jar with raw apple cider vinegar. Use a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper to cover the mouth of the jar before screwing on the lid so that the metal of the lid doesn’t corrode from the acidity of the vinegar. Label your jar and leave out of direct sunlight for 4-6 weeks. When 4 -6 weeks have passed, strain your infused vinegar with cheese cloth or muslin and store in a glass jar. Add this nutrient rich vinegar to cooking greens or salad dressings whenever you think of it. You can also use it diluted on your scalp for dandruff!
Bitters are an important, and often overlooked, part of a healthy diet because they help to stimulate your digestion and support your liver. Here is a way of preparing dandelion greens that cuts the bitter taste without taking away the bitter effect.
-1/2 bunch of wild or cultivated dandelion greens
-1 bunch of parsley
-5 cloves of garlic
-3/4 cup of sunflower seeds
-olive oil to preferred texture
-sea salt to preferred taste
Blend everything in a food processor until it reaches the texture you like for pesto. Add to eggs, toast, pasta, rice, etc!