Spring has not yet sprung, but it is time for spring greens. This time of year, when there is little in the garden, the visiting wild weeds are a welcome sight. Here are a few of them that are quite common in a variety of environments and they often arrive before spring does.
Chickweed is A Spring Green That Is Everywhere
Spicy Spring Greens
Bitter Spring Greens
Dandelion is a plant almost everyone knows. These greens are available in most of our lawns and gardens as well as everywhere else. They are bitter and as with all bitters are great for stimulating the digestion. The greens are a nice bitter to add to your salad as are the flower peteals, or the greens can be stir fried and mixed with a little home-made vinegar or lemon juice. Yum.
Herbal Medicine: As a medicine, Dandelion is a mild laxative, diuretic (especially the leaf) choloagogue, choleretic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It has been used in arthritis, gout, edema, gastric headaches and a variety of liver ailments. The whole plant, especially the root, is beneficial to the liver. Autumn roots are roasted and used as a coffee substitute. The high inulin content, especially in the autumn makes dandelion root a good food source for beneficial gut bacteria.
My Favorite Spring Greens Will Be Here Soon
One of my favorite spring greens is Stinging Nettle. Stinging Nettle is usually ready to harvest after Pepper Grass is getting long in the tooth. As a food both the roots/rhizomes and the aerial leafy parts can be eaten. Although the roots are fine as soup stock, I mostly eat the tops of the nettles, and I prefer the early, supple, spring greens best. The most choice part is the top 4-6 inches.
I usually stir fry Stinging Nettle or cook it in soups. I think it tastes like spinach with an attitude. It is much tastier than spinach. I have also eaten it as a pesto made by a lovely student (warning fresh pesto probably won't sting you if you grind it down really good, but no promises), as a side with fish and a nice sauce, in casseroles, and as a substitute for spinach in any recipe that is cooked.
A few words of caution for those of you unacquainted with Stinging Nettle; treat this plant with utmost care or she will sting you. Wear gloves when harvesting and processing nettles. I have more than once, been on a hike and been surprised by a patch of nettles. In my overwhelming glee at finding the first spring nettles, I have temporarily lost my mind and decided to collect them without gloves. Each time I have nursed my wounds, questioning such a crazy decision. No matter how carefully I harvest this tasty plant, she reminds me that she is protecting herself and she is to be respected. Luckily, once the plant is cooked the sting disappears and you can savor this delicacy without concern.
Herbal Medicine: Don't miss the extensive details on Stinging Nettle as food and medicine.
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