by Tama Matsuoka Wong
Various experts that espouse natural approaches to living and to health have touted the benefits of both locally sourced foods and fresh greens. One often-overlooked way to begin eating more locally sourced food and bringing more fresh greens into our diets with little expense is to incorporate wild greens into our meals. Instead of tossing away them away as unwanted, consider what is growing naturally and sustainably in every garden: weeds. Some of these wild greens can be harvested as culinary delights – delicious, tender and full of flavor.
Here are a few wild edibles that can be found in most Bucks County backyards.
- Dandelion is easy to identify with its characteristic jagged toothed leaves that join at one central point. Harvest the center leaves when they are light green, young and tender, before they flower. Dandelion pairs well when cooked with a heavier meat like beef or raw in a potato salad with a poached egg.
- Onion grass, or wild garlic, tastes like a wonderful blend of chives and garlic. Because its shoots are round (not flat like grass), it’s also easy to find; when you break off a clump the aroma of mild garlic will make your mouth water. Pick when slim and tender for a milder taste. Substitute for scallions or chives in any dish.
- Garlic mustard is an invasive plant that forms a basal rosette (meaning all leaves come from one central point), and each leaf is crinkly and formed like an ear shape. Find it on the edges of and in forests, low to the ground. Chopped, it makes a delicious pesto, or infused into oil, it can be used to baste roasted meats.
- Wild greens can be harvested on the weekend, stored in plastic baggies in the refrigerator, and add great to meals all week. They can be tossed as toppings onto pizza, hamburgers or potatoes.
For help identifying edible wild greens, post a photo to the plant identification forum on MeadowsAndMore.com. Recipes and harvesting tips can also be found in the book, Foraged Flavor, includes a sustainability code to aid wild plant harvesters with identification of the wild plants that can be picked abundantly and those that should be left untouched. Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, located at 1635 River Road, in New Hope, offers classes for the public on native plants and holds invasive-plant-picking days for volunteers.
Tama Matsuoka Wong is the co-author of the field guide and cookbook Foraged Flavor (Clarkson Potter, June 2012). For more information, visit MeadowsAndMore.com, April 2013