April’s Blog Party: Spring foraging and gardening
by Danielle Charles
This month’s blog party is being hosted by the lovely Leslie over at Comfrey Cottages. She has chosen the theme of Spring wild foraging and herbal gardening (both things so very close to my heart!). She says,
I realize that not everywhere in the world is it feeling very spring like yet, and some of you might even still have snow, so if it isn’t quite time for you to garden or forage yet, still feel free to post about past adventures or ones you have plans for. The same applies to gardening. I look forward to any new tips, recipes or other ideas you come up with to share!
I immediately decided that I was going to make a deliciously bitter and pungent salad for the occasion out of a few of my favorite wild edibles. Venturing out to gather Spring’s wild spring greens has been a tradition for nearly all cultures living in the Northern Hemisphere – not only because the act in itself seems to reinvigorate us with the sight of fresh growth and new life, but also because the exotic pungent and bitter flavors of these greens stimulate and revitalize our systems after the stagnancy created by dark days and heavy foods. Their strong and exotic flavors help to stimulate digestive and detoxification processes throughout the body – while the high nutrient levels they contain nourish us deeply and provide a boost to our entire system.
But sadly, the week of the blog party has come, and there still isn’t much going on here in terms of foraging. Aside from the tiniest, most adorable little dandelions:
and a few mud strewn wild strawberry leaves, the wild goodness of spring has a week or two more before it begins to show itself. But that is no bother at all, as there are plenty of delicious little shoots appearing in the herb garden.
Along with all those glorious weeds and wild edibles of the forest, perennial herbs are the stars of the early spring table. Pale and delicate shoots of culinary herbs such as oregano and thyme are revealed from their hiding places under the snow, offering up milder tasting and tenderer counterparts to their summer harvest. Indeed, all throughout the garden one finds tiny, richly colored and deeply crinkled leaves appearing around the bases of the dried out stalks signalling the presence of last year’s growth – (as well as some delicious eating!).
All of our cultivated medicinals can be enlisted for the same type of medicinal food offered by our beloved spring greens – and are especially lovely when mixed with them. Tiny shoots of lemon balm, fuzzy fronds of yarrow, or the first, tenderest growth of meadowsweet. The leaves are tender, the flavors somewhat muted but still exotic and enticing – our beloved medicines from later in the season provide the the most bizarre and delicious of spring salads.
To create your own spring salad, you want a nice blend of flavors, shapes and textures. Go for herbs and wild greens from each category if you can, to create a truly spectacular explosion of flavors:
- Citrusy/tart lemon balm, sorrel or dock leaves;
- Bitter dandelion and chicory greens, yarrow fronds, and tiniest motherwort, lady’s mantle or catnip leaves;
- Pungent oregano and marjoram shoots, garlic mustard, very young horseradish shoots, any cress (bitter-cress, watercress, etc), violet leaves
- Garlicky chives, ramps (wild leeks), ramsons (wild garlic);
- Cucumberish borage flowers or young leaves, meadowsweet shoots;
- Anise-like or Celery: chervil, sweet cecily, fennel shoots, young angelica leaves, parsley, lovage;
These are the types of salads that make you feel truly invigorated after you eat them – supercharged on pure spring energy. They are my simple yet also my favorite way to enjoy the splendor of spring’s wild plants and the first growth of my garden.
Be sure to check out Comfrey Cottages tomorrow, where you will surely find lots of foraging and spring gardening inspiration when Leslie posts the links to all of the blog party entries.