Well with spring soon approaching in this northern hemisphere, I am getting very excited about picking wild greens again. All of my life I have eaten wild plants. My father would bring in dandelion greens and boil them up for us. (sometimes it was out of necessity as there simply was no food in the cupboards).
Here are some facts about eating wild plants:
· Full of more nutrition than the same plant grown domesticated.
· Are fresher than store bought as vegetables and fruits are shipped long distances to market, sit on shelves, losing flavour and nutrition.
· They are organic as no fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides are used in the wild. (if there is don’t pick them there, I won’t pick them in the parks in my city as I know they spray for mosquitoes).
· Not grown in depleted soil as nature replenishes itself.
Best of all they are free! And they are gourmet foods.
A few of my favourites are nettles, dandelions, fiddleheads, chickweed & lambs quarters.
Nettles: Are a great spring tonic; every year in spring, I would make
nettle soup when I lived in England. I will post that recipe later.
Pictured from www.mariquita.com/ images/photogallery/n.html
Nettles leaves contain: flavonoids (quercitin, isoquerctrin, rutin, kaempferol; amines (histamine, serotonin (5-HTP), acetylcholine; lecithin; carotenoids, vitamin C, triterpenes, beta-sitosterol, formic and citric acids; minerals (high amounts of calcium, potassium and silicic acids).
Dandelion Greens: are one of the most useful of food herbs. The leaves are very high in potassium, Vitamin A, B, C and D, the A content being higher than that of carrots. They also have iron, fiber, protein and a little carbohydrate. More importantly, they are there for the picking. I dig them up with the roots intact and keep the roots in water in a bowl till I am ready to eat them thus keeping them as live food. I usually simply steam them along with my other vegetables.
The most common thing to do is boil dandelion greens until tender (changing the water once will take away some of the bitter taste if they are not young greens), then garnish with olive oil, butter or lemon juice.
Dandelion leaves contain: (3 ½ onunces boiled) Protein: 2 grams. Vit. A: 12,168 (IU). Vit. C: 18 milligrams. Iron: 1.8 milligrams.
Vegetarian Times magazine had an excellent recipe for ramps several months ago. Aparently after the initial eating, there is a cathartic effect which does not repeat itself in later meals.
Also, I'm seeing more recipes on the more mainstream websites. Epicurious.com (The website for Gourmet and Bon Apetite magazines) is hosting a Meatless recipe contest that should prove interesting. They too have quite the recipe bank, and I've gotten some really good recipes from them However, the biggest help has been the reviews that people who've tried them write afterward. I've gotten some very helpful hints from them.
The origin of its name is unclear. One theory says that the mature leaf looks like a cut of lamb’s meat––the quarter. “Mutton tops,” one of its common names, seems to support this thought. But another theory relates it to “lammas quarter” ––an English festival––although the plant associated with that holiday is actually “orache,” another relative. The Latin name is Chenopodium album, meaning white goosefoot, referring to the shape of its leaf and to a mealy white powder appearing on both sides. In Canada it has been widely known as pigweed and bacon weed because it was often fed to pigs.
Lamb’s quarters is found over North America, Europe and Asia in waste places, edges of pathways, overgrown fields, urban parks and most gardens. Thought to be brought here from Europe, there is evidence it may be native to Canada. Lamb’s quarters apparently was not well known among American Indians before European settlers came, but it was quickly adapted into their diets, used as a potherb and as a medicinal herb–– internally for genital itch and stomachache and externally for gout, pleuritis and edema.
The plant reaches a height of 1 to 4 feet normally but in rich soil may reach 5 to 6 feet or more. Its stem is slender and grooved, and a mature plant will have red around leaf joints and axils. Young leaves are simple and alternate and are long and thin. They grow to be more oval or diamond shaped and develop edges that are wavy. The small green flowers come in dense spikes in the upper leaf axils. They later contain up to 75,000 small black seeds, which, when scattered, may lie dormant for several years before sprouting. There is no distinguishable aroma to this plant.
In temperate climates lamb’s quarters appears in mid-spring. It is one of a number of plants which help transform poor soils by putting out a deep root system to break up the soil and bring nutrients to the surface. This root system also allows it to be resistant to drought. Lamb’s quarters can be a good mother weed, if controlled, for common vegetables, encouraging and supporting their growth.
The leaves are a great source of beta carotene, a precursor to vitamin A. Like other green plants, lamb’s quarters aids the liver in the production of bile and contains an oil which helps emulsify hardened animal fat in the heart and arteries. The plant is high in calcium––about 309 mg per 100 grams––one of the highest amounts in green leafy vegetables. The leaves do contain oxalic acid, which inhibits calcium utilization, but the calcium levels are so high it is still a good source. They have 4.2 grams of protein per 100 grams ––again, one of the highest. Lamb’s quarters is also rich in potassium, B-vitamin complex, vitamin C and fiber. It is one of the plants richest in folic acid, especially important for pregnant women. The seeds also contain calcium, protein and potassium as well as niacin and phosphorous.
The whole plant can be eaten when young. The leaves are good in spring and early summer. After that, the upper leaves are best. It’s better than spinach and never bitter (unless you are from the Midwest where everything turns bitter when hot weather comes). The leaves can be used raw in salads or cooked in soups, stews, casseroles, simply steamed or sautéed. Lamb’s quarters dries well and can be reconstituted or powdered for use in winter. It is very good in raw cheese or tofu dishes like quiche, as its wild flavor and high mineral content go well with the cool, neutral tasting high protein foods. The leaves can be chopped and mixed with pancake batter or steamed with cabbage and drizzled with ume or rice vinegar. A quick, light stew with pasta, tofu, cabbage and carrots, with soy sauce or miso as flavoring, also works.*
In summertime flower heads can be used in casseroles and breads. They are very delicious. The seeds are harvested in the fall by rubbing the flower heads, collecting them in a large bowl, then blowing out the chaff. They can then be cooked with oatmeal or kamut flakes or ground into flour for inclusion in pancakes or bread.* Napoleon used them like that for his army when supplies were short. It is not necessary to have an army to commandeer this abundant, nutritious and tasty plant. All it takes is some curiosity, some will power, a small cutting knife and a pot of water; and you will be rewarded beyond your dreams.
Diane for all that good information about Lambs quarters.
I would love to have some more wild food recipes, any one out there have one or two?
Shoots and Greens of Early Spring
Here’s a super-simple, super delicious way of preparing a chickweed side dish in a hurry. Serve over whole-grain noodles.
8 cups chickweed leaves and stems, rinsed.
2 tsp. olive oil, or to taste
1 tsp. lemon juice
1⁄4 tsp. salt, or to taste"
1⁄4 tsp. black pepper, or to taste
1. Shake off the excess water and chop the chickweed.
2. Place in a heavy pot, cover, and cook over low heat 5-10 minutes or until just wilted. Avoid overcooking. Don't add any liquid. The water clinging to the plant is sufficient.
3. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Serve hot.
Well Diane, I always know about eating chickweed and it does get included in my salads; never thought of steaming it. As the chickweed is so light I can see why one would need to cook lots.
It is going to be a long time before I try that one as autumn is certainly here and you know what that means - Winter with snow and no green plants!
LAMBSQUARTERS & TOMATO SALAD
This delicious salad has unique taste and is only available in the summer.
4 cups lambsquarters
2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
½ bunch dill weed, chopped
I lemon juiced
1 avocado, mashed
Add sea salt if desired