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Seven Spring Greens: Coming Soon to a Field or Forest Near You

What kind of spring greens grow in your neighborhood and what can you do with them once you’ve got them back to your kitchen? Mild greens are often eaten raw, while bitter greens are usually served cooked. Before you start using your spring greens, it’s a good idea to know how to make the most of your harvest. Here’s a quick rundown on some of the most common (and tastiest) wild spring greens. Coming soon to a field or forest near you.

 

What’s Coming Up?

Click on the highlighted link to read more about each of these wild greens.

 

chickweed
chickweed

Chickweed is a mild, cool-weather green, often the first wild edible to appear in Spring after the snows have melted. It grows in both shade and sun, but plants growing in shade will be more lush and tender. Use it raw in salads, or cooked with bitter greens to balance their strong taste.

 

 

 

dock
dock

Dock is another early spring green and its fresh, lemony taste is welcome indeed after a winter of canned and frozen vegetables. Dock takes on a creamy texture when cooked. It’s especially delicious in custards and egg dishes.

 

 

 

dandelion
dandelion

 

Dandelions are one of the most common weeds around, despised by many and appreciated by few. But have you checked your local grocery store lately? Cultivated dandelions are on sale right next to all the other greens! In Spring, dandelions can be eaten raw, but as the season continues, they may need to be cooked to reduce bitterness.

 

 

garlic mustard
garlic mustard

Garlic mustard is a rampant weed and an invasive pest in many ecosystems. Native plant societies often conduct spring outings devoted solely to the purpose of pulling up as much garlic mustard as possible. (I wonder how many of them eat their harvest.) Like dandelions, their earliest growth is tasty raw, but later in the season you may want to cook them to reduce bitterness. I like them best in a fresh, spring pesto.

 

stinging nettles
stinging nettles

 

 

 

Yes, they sting, but stinging nettles are totally worth a little pain. The stingers are destroyed by cooking, so a quick blanch will disarm your harvest. Stinging nettles have a mild flavor, but unlike many mild greens which are often eaten raw, nettles should always be eaten cooked, because of their stingers. Use nettles any way you’d use cooked spinach.

 

 

 

miner's lettuce
miner’s lettuce

This is my absolute favorite raw salad green: succulent, crunchy, and mild. I could eat a bowl of it with just a little vinaigrette and consider myself well fed. Miner’s lettuce got its name during the California gold rush when fresh vegetables were hard to find. It’s got loads of vitamin C and helped keep scurvy at bay. Don’t cook miner’s lettuce. It would be a shame to destroy that juicy crunch.

 

 

musk mustard
musk mustard

Musk mustard is just barely spicy; it’s tasty raw or cooked. Combine it with milder greens in quiches, egg dishes, and stir fries. Or, use it raw in salads or delicate finger sandwiches. Musk mustard (sometimes called blue mustard or purple mustard) is milder than most wild mustards. It’s tasty on its own with just a drizzle of salad dressing.

 

 

 

 

So. What’s coming up near you? Inquiring minds want to know.

 

 

4 comments

  1. Heather Wood says:

    As always, enjoyed your post. Down in Albuquerque we’re having summer temps during the day but I’m still foraging some nettles in the shade. Grape leaves are especially good right now.

    • Ellen says:

      Wish I had some nettle spots close by here. I’ve found them in the Jemez and the Valle Vidal, but those aren’t places I can get to on a regular basis. Do you harvest cholla buds?

      • Heather Wood says:

        The only nettle patch that I know of in the Albuquerque area is in my own back yard. I planted them after searching in all my usual haunts for a wild patch and never finding one. This is true of many of the plants that I used to forage back in the east. I had to plant dandelions too, if you can imagine such a thing.
        I admit that I’ve never harvested cholla buds. They have always seemed tedious to defang, and the one description I read indicated that that were mucousy, which killed my interest. But what do you think of them?

        • Ellen says:

          I haven’t tried them yet! We’re usually back east in June, which is when they’re ready in Santa Fe. I was thinking about checkin a patch I know in Rio Rancho on Sunday. Have they already come and gone in ABQ? If the flowers are already open you could save me a trip!

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