Well, my wishes finally came true! The past couple weeks have brought a handful of warm days that required only a tshirt and a single pair of pants, and there has been plenty of frost-bitten spinach leaves and flea bitten salad greens to gorge ourselves on.
The asparagus has made its debut — we have both green and purple varieties. I didn’t know there even was such a thing as purple asaragus until I came here, or that you could eat it raw! Most exciting to me, however, has been discovering the wild edibles popping up around the garden. It’s fun to weed and harvest at the same time!
Mainly, I’ve been gathering goosefoot — in the same family as quinoa, with heart shaped leaves chock full of vitamins, minerals, and protein. The tender young leaves, up to about the size of a quarter, add a distinctive, indescribable flavor to salad. I can’t get enough of it — I’ve been known to eat an entire bowl of them straight! As they mature, it’s better to cook them, wilting or blanching them like spinach. If only it didn’t take so long to remove the leaves from the stem and sort through them, this delicious, nutritious, and abundant weed would no doubt be a staple of my diet.
I was scared away from stinging nettles by my first experience trying them back in Washington, which left my mouth scratchy for the rest of the day. My fellow intern explained that this is because nettles need to be boiled to deactivate their sting — frying them doesn’t do the trick. I wasn’t particularly fond of the flavor, but nettles are a great source of iron and other nutrients, however, so I’d like to give them another shot. Especially with so intriguing recipes across the web that I would love to try again in the future, from soup to pesto to quiche to crustless spanakopita.
The best wild delicacy, by far, were the fiddlehead ferns. Slice them off while they are still tightly furled and fry them in a pan for a few minutes on each side until they are golden brown. Incredible! Too bad they have such a short season! Certainly a lesson in seizing the moment, since each fiddlehead unfurls within a day or two!
UPDATE (4/17/2016): Had a great deal of fun harvesting nettles with the kids at Spreadwing, and marveled at their appetite for the greens, simply simmered in a little water and salt until tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. We didn’t even bother to remove all but the thickest stems. The leftovers are also wonderful in scrambled eggs the next morning! Nettle leaves also make a great nutritive tea, boiled fresh or dry.