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Spring Foraging: Harvesting And Preparing Wild Greens

It's that time of year again: Time to harvest wild greens! Earth Eats contributor Amy Jeanroy walks you through harvesting and cooking tasty wild greens.

dog in a field of dandelions

Photo: autumnsonata (flickr)

Filled with nutrients and rich chlorophyll, wild greens like dandelions can satisfy your body’s craving for fresh, wholesome foods - right from your yard.

It is that time of year again: Time to harvest the wild greens!

Years ago, it was commonplace for families to enjoy the earliest edibles by picking the wild herbs that were just beginning to grow. Some, like dandelion and chickweed, show themselves once the snow has melted, but the ground is still cold and wet. It is the perfect excuse to get out in the warm sunshine and fresh air, even if it only lasts a day or two before snow flies again.

Know What You’re Looking For

Before picking any wild edible, it is prudent to know what you are looking for. There are numerous books and websites that offer clear, close up photos of various edible plants.

A good rule of thumb is to find three different places that all say and show the same plant information.

My favorite wild greens are: Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), Chickweed (stellaria media), Nettles (Urtica dioica) and Purslane (Portulaca oleracea). Fortunately, all of these are very common and familiar to almost anyone who has a yard or been to a park.

Harvesting Wild Greens

To harvest wild greens, simply snip off leaves of dandelion and nettles (I often use the entire top portion when they are less than 6 inches in height). For chickweed and purslane, snip off stems and leaves, both are soft and edible.

Filled with nutrients and rich chlorophyll, these foods can satisfy your body’s craving for fresh, wholesome foods — right from your yard.

You do have to be careful to only harvest from areas that you know have not been treated with any chemicals. Be aware that many towns spray alongside of roads, and even if they have not done so this early in the year, there may be residual chemical buildup from previous applications. So, it is best to find an area off the beaten path, or your own yard.

Preparing Your Greens

The most common way that I use wild greens, is to sauté them and serve with organic vinegar on the side.

  1. Pick one cup of greens per person, and sauté in the fat from a slice of bacon or salt pork.
  2. Once your greens are coated with the fat, cover the pan tightly for 3 to 5 minutes. This will wilt them to a soft, edible state, without turning them to mush.
  3. Serve these greens with good quality vinegar, Balsamic is decadent.

Have fun!

Recipe from Earth Eats: Dandelion Greens with New Potatoes and Local Italian Sausage

Amy Jeanroy

Amy Jeanroy lives on a small family farm in Nebraska. She and her family raise organic produce, milk, eggs and meat for sale. When she is not tending to the goats and gardens, Amy works as a freelance writer on gardening and green living topics, with a frugal touch. She is the Herb Gardens Guide for About.com, as well as the author of Canning and Preserving For Dummies, 2nd edition, 2009.

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