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Wild Food Journal

Greens of Spring

Though we have been wrapped in winter for a few months now, the cold has not stopped the daffodils from poking their heads above ground and the first greens of spring from unfurling their leaves. We’re excited for our upcoming tours and want to involve more local folks on our plant walks. If you’re a local we are offering HALF OFF our foraging tours when you register the day before the event. Just contact us for a code to enter at checkout 24 hours before your chosen tour. In preparation for our Early Spring tours, come see what’s up and coming.

Bitter Cress (Cardamine hirsuta)

This little weed is a member of the Brassica family, which means it’s a cousin to broccoli! Members of this family are full of vitamin C and sulphur which aids oxygen in crossing into your cells and has been researched for its role in preventing certain types of cancers. It’s sometimes called hairy bittercress, which becomes evident when you get up close and personal with this little guy. There are tiny hairs covering the stems, but don’t worry, you won’t notice them when you chow down since they are so tiny.

Bittercress is often one of the first green things to come up in spring and has a peppery, mustard-like flavor and is great in salads, stir fries, soups and stews. I add some to my eggs in the morning right at the very end of cooking. Delicious!

Dead Nettle (Lamium purpurea)

Purple dead nettle, although strangely scented, is a wild mint and one of our most common springtime “weeds.” This square-stemmed, opposite-leaved friend is abundant in fields, disturbed soil and garden edges. Harvest the fuzzy, sometimes purple-tinged tops throughout early spring. Try pulling the sweet little flowers off and sprinkling on salads or savor each individually for a little faerie treat. Don’t worry about the name (describing the the fact it has no sting); this recipe will put a spring in your step. This plant also makes a pleasant tea that has antihistamine effects for allergy sufferers. What’s not to like?

Becky’s Dead Nettle Fritters

2 cups finely chopped dead nettle tops

1 egg

1 tsp salt

1/4 cup finely chopped ramps or onion grass

black pepper, curry, or other seasonings of your choice

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, spoon tablespoons of batter onto a buttered pan, and cook until golden on each side. Enjoy with sour cream, yogurt, fresh chopped chickweed, or any other condiments you can imagine.

Onion Grass (Alium vineal)

This may have been your first wild food as a child. Forced to sit still outside in gym class listening to the teacher drone on, I used to shovel this fragrant onion flavored plant into my mouth much to my instructor’s chagrin. Though not a grass, it is often referd to as garlic grass or onion grass. This alium or onion family plant is related to your garden variety chives, so why not take advantage of this very common cool weather crop? You’ll often see them growing taller than the other green grasses around them, for they grow much faster.

Use just like you would chives! Check for a hollow stem, for they are not a grass with a  flat blade, they just grow in similar looking clumps from afar. The tell-tale scent of onion combined with the hollow stem and blue-green hue are all indicators that you have this easy to find, identify and harvest spring treat.

Chop fine and blend with cream cheese for a to-die-for dip, or sauté with vegetables, meat or mushrooms for a burst of garlic-onion flavor.

Spring time is the time of green things. Come see what’s popping us on a tour! If you want to go deeper into the nutritional aspects of these multitudinous greens check out our upcoming class, Wild Foods as Medicine March 25th. Green blessings as we gear up for the new growing year!