Saturday, April 4, 2009

Foraged Greens

One good thing about spring is that wild greens appear before cultivated greens, giving us a jumpstart on fresh salads and a well-deserved break from winter foods.

First of our foraged greens on tonight's menu is Common Chickweed, Stellaria media, a really invasive pest in my flower gardens. I take revenge on it by eating it and feeding it to my customers! I first learned of its edibility in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in local recipes for quiches and quiche-like egg dishes containing chickweed.

Next up is the violet, Viola spp. What we call violets are the wild cousins of the cultivated violas, johnny-jump-ups, and pansies. Before the pansies in the window boxes at the restaurant can set good blooms in late April, I can harvest beautiful violets from my yard. In addition to making lovely garnish, they're great, both young leaves and blooms, in salads.

And last, but certainly not least among our foraged greens for this evening, is Miner's Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata, a tasty salad herb from the west coast. These were harvested by a Laotian family from the Columbia River valley in Oregon.

I'm finally happy to have to really fresh greens on the menu. To rephrase the old saw about men and trash and treasure, one man's weed is another man's feed.

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