It's that time of year again. I don't have to make as many trips to the grocery store, and my plates are filled with greens.
The wild kind, that live just off my back deck.
When I was a little one, my mother would let me wander around our property in the St. John River valley. But she could never look away for too long, because there I'd be...nibbling on something or other. Like a little calf in the grass.
Thankfully, I've added some sophistication to my foraging and wild food cooking, but for anyone that wants to try....you can start doing so simply and safely, with the curiosity of a child and a bit of fun.
A wonderful green that is currently plentiful, tender, and filled with lots of vitamins and minerals, is dandelion.
The greens are best when picked young, though I've definitely picked them throughout the summer season and eaten them in different ways. They tend to accumulate more of a bitter flavor as the leaves age, but that is an excellent digestive support and stimulant for the production of digestive juices.
Basic guidelines when you're going to forage for anything:
1) Make sure the plant is not close to a roadway or has been sprayed with pesticides/herbicides/fungicides, etc.
2) Make sure you have permission to harvest there and it's the right time to do so
3) Make sure what you're harvesting isn't a protected plant. If you can avoid lethal harvest (taking the entire plant), do so to sustain populations, reseed/plant as you can, and never take more than 1/3 of the population. I always like to throw out an "ask" to the plants and see if they even want me to take anything. Your gut will tell you whether it's a yes or no. Leave an offering if you have something natural to leave behind.
Now, dandelions are found in most yards, and certainly aren't in shortage. I have used the root, greens, and blossoms to make a variety of meals, but if you want to give the greens a try first, that's a great place to start. Below I'll share my Sunday dinner recipe that incorporated both dandelion greens and violet blossoms (also available and edible):
Dandelion Daal and Violet Garnish
Prep Time: 45 Minutes
1/2 minced onion
1 cup red lentils
3 cups veggie or chicken stock
2 cups chopped dandelions
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1.5 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 tsp maple syrup
Handful of fresh violet blossoms
1 cup rice or grain of choice for side
Go out and forage your dandelions from a clean, close-by space. Rinse, chop roughly, and set aside. Set rice or side grain of choice to cook while you are preparing the lentils. Don't forget about them. :) Mince 1/2 an onion and cook in a saucepan on medium heat with 1 tbsp of the coconut oil. Once the onion is translucent, add the lentils and stock of choice. Cover and let simmer for about 1/2 hour on medium heat, or until the lentils are softened. Add onion powder, garlic powder, salt, curry, ginger, crushed red pepper, and cumin at listed proportions but modify to taste if desired. Add maple syrup and second tbsp of coconut oil (can omit if desired), mix thoroughly. Let cook for another 10-15 minutes, and in the last 5 minutes, add the dandelion greens, continuing to cook on low heat until they are cooked but still vibrant green in the daal mixture. Dish into serving plates/bowls, and garnish with fresh violet blossoms.
I hope that tickles your taste buds! If you want to know more about the weeds in your backyard, I'll be doing some beauty walks in Biddeford this summer starting in July. Dates are soon to come. I also have a couple workshops coming up on digestive health and using evergreen trees medicinally. Be sure to sign up for the email list to stay updated!!