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 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 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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.