This time of year, Farmers’ Markets have plenty of ramps, dandelions, nettles and other wild greens. Wouldn’t it be fun to look for them on your walks and pick some? Only to be attempted if you definitely know what to pick.
Spring has definitely arrived, and green things are sprouting up everywhere. Along the path by the river, by the side of the lake, in the park. Even by the sidewalks. Have you ever wondered whether any of that is edible? Fact is, most of them are. But only if one knows which to pick.
Foraging for wild food is how humankind survived in its early days. However, as settled and started cultivating food, the foraging skills were no longer needed for survival. In recent times individuals and small communities have recognized that it is something that can be beneficial to people as well as the environment.
Collecting any greens that grow in wild unattended places for food is actually foraging. These could be in our own areas or where we travel to for the purpose.
One of the advantages of eating wild greens is that they contain phytonutrients not found in cultivated foods.
However, one has to be extremely careful to identify plants correctly before consuming them as some of the plants could be poisonous, even causing death. In addition to plant identification, there are factors you should be mindful of, like pick them from areas where dust from the traffic or other pollutants haven’t settled. Also where dogs haven’t peed on them. 🙂
And be careful not to harm the plant and only take just what you need, so that it can come back and provide goodies for a long time to come. Once you become familiar with the greens available in your local area, you can count on them coming up year after year. I know three wonderful mulberry trees in my neighborhood who have provided many a basketful of lovely ripe fruit year after year.
Living in an urban area, personally I do not have access to too many species of edible wild greens. Dandelion, nettles and purslane are things that I have confidently collected. And I normally cook them along with other store bought greens.
All these leaves should be picked when they are still tender and only the delicate shoots should be picked. Dandelion buds are supposed to be good for brewing tea but never tried it.
Wild Greens Soup
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 leeks, cut in half lengthwise and sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, sliced
- 6 cups chopped greens (leaves only), such as Swiss chard, dandelion greens, beet and carrot greens
- 2 large eggs
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Slices of toasted bread, to serve
- Grated Parmesan, for serving (optional)
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot over medium heat, and add the leeks. Cook, stirring, until tender, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add the greens, and stir until they begin to wilt.
- Add 6 cups and salt to taste, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 15 to 20 minutes, until the greens are very tender.
- Add pepper to taste and adjust seasoning.
- Beat the eggs in a bowl. Making sure that the soup is not boiling, whisk a ladle of it into the beaten eggs. Take the soup off the heat, and stir in the tempered eggs.
- Place one or two slices of bread in each bowl. Ladle in the soup, sprinkle some Parmesan if desired and serve.