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April’s Blog Party: Spring foraging and gardening

Posted Jul 01 2011 1:31pm

April 19, 2011 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!).

Oregano

Valerian

Catnip

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;
To assemble the salad, I like to combine any sort of variety of greens available from my garden and backyard, trying to touch on at least a few different flavors for complexities sake – and being sure to add in a few milder tasting greens like chickweed, plantain leaves, or wild strawberry leaves to mute things out just a bit. The flavors are so vibrant that the salad really needs little more than a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of a nutty oil like hazelnut or walnut, and a hint of sea salt and cracked pepper.

My spring salad of yarrow fronds, youngest dandelions, oregano shoots, and wild strawberry leaves

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.

Posted in blog parties, Food, lemon balm, meadowsweet, Motherwort, Salad, Spring, Violet, Wildfoods, Yarrow | 12 Comments

2 bloggers like this post.
  1. on April 20, 2011 at 8:37 am | Reply comfreycottages

    Oh Danielle, that salad looks lucious! I like the idea of using a nutty oil on it:) And thank you for including the idea of using the flavor categories to assemble a truely delightful eating experiencexx Just a lovely post, I truly enjoyed it! Thank you! We had a very, very unusual first part of April, with weather similiar to mid/late May, late spring, instead of the very early spring it should have felt like. So our woods looks about two weeks further along than it should, but the cultivated garden herbs look about right, except for comfrey, I have already took a small harvest from her! lol I am zone 5, which zone are you, in regards to the US planting zone map? big hugs and love with many thanks for joing in the party xx

    • on April 20, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Reply Danielle Charles

      Hi Leslie!
      There really is nothing like a spring salad, and I’ve become absolutely addicted to walnut oil of late – so pair the two together and I’m in heaven :) Here in central VT, we are zone 4. It was a very VERY long winter here – we really didn’t get the usual thaw that happens in March, and the cold and snow stuck around till just recently. Looking at my pictures and garden notes from last year, it seems we are at least 2 weeks behind – so its very strange that it should be the opposite for you! Hopefully things will balance out now. Thanks again for hosting the blog party and choosing such a great topic!

      XOXO D

  2. Lovely thoughts Danielle, I’ve never used wild strawberry leaves in salad before, I’ll have to try them out soon.
    It’s so nice to just be able to pop out to the garden and gather ingredients isn’t it.
    Our weather here is very different from normal too, it’s been so warm, like mid-summer. Everything is very ahead of itself in the garden and in the wild. I’ve even had to go out watering every day… most unlike our normal April showers. :)
    Thanks for an inspiring post!!
    xxxx

    • on April 21, 2011 at 9:03 am | Reply Danielle Charles

      Wild strawberry leaves are nice – they are somewhat mild (and a little astringent) when it comes to flavor, but they blend really nicely with some of the spicier and more bitter tasting greens. They are actually quite high in flavanoids – so a nice antioxidant! One herbalist I know uses them as a mild nervine, which I also quite like the thought of.
      What a strange year, huh! I suppose the weather here has actually been closer to normal – and we’ve just been spoiled by abnormally warm springs the past few years. Today I am despairing because it is SNOWING again. But at least I am consoled that next week will bring a patch of warm, sunny weather.

      Hope your April showers come at last!
      XOXO

  3. You are welcome, it is my pleasure to host this month :) I thank you again for your lovely contribution to the party xx Zone 4, yes, you do have a longer wintertime and have been having an exceptionally cold spring this year. It is funny how one of us can be having weather that seems early while the other can be having the opposite:) Ours has gone back to very, very rainy and quite chilly this last few days. My poor bees have gone back to cluster after having some weeks of flight. Bet they are disappointed! I can’t wait to get some walnut oil at the store when next I shop, Danielle. I have never had it before!!! love and hugs and many thanks!

  4. Your salad look delicious Danielle :)
    I have never used wild strawberry leaves in my salad, I’ll try it.
    Thank you for sharing,

    Rita

    • on April 23, 2011 at 8:18 am | Reply Danielle Charles

      Hi Rita,

      Thanks for the comment – I know you’ll just love the addition of the strawberry leaves, an abundant and delicious green :)

      XOXO D

  5. Blessings for this wonderful post, Danielle!!! Ohhh, I am loving the idea of creating Salads from nature this year, I’ve always wanted to try Dandelion, and in hopes they will come up more abundantly this year — we used to have our yard covered in them, but last year I noticed there seemed to be hardly any growing on our property, which is very mysteriously unusual!

    The photo of the Catnip caught my eye. We have something growing that is similar to it, am still working on identifying it, but maybe you could take a sneak-peak at the photo I took of what we have in our yard and give a little insight what it may be;)

    Many blessings, dear — and it was wonderful learning about your wonderful Wildcrafting salad!!!

    xo,
    ~Shamanic Winds )O(

    • on April 23, 2011 at 8:17 am | Reply Danielle Charles

      It always cheers my heart to hear people wishing for more dandelions! From the picture, it looks like you might have a little motherwort – a close relative of catnip and another excellent herb that is also delicious in salads (though in smaller amounts as it tastes quite bitter). To be sure though, it should have square stems (a clear indicator that it is of the mint family), and as it grows the leaves should become more divided and palmate (hand-shaped, like maple leaves) like this: . If you take a small nibble of the leaf, it should be characteristically bitter with just the smallest hint of mintiness.

      Keep your eye on it as it grows, and then you can more accurately ID it when the leaves come to maturity and the flower stalks begin.

      Glad you enjoyed the post, and thanks for your comment :)
      XOXO D

  6. You know, re reading this makes me realize I have used raspberry leaves in salads and nibbled on them, just never thought to do the same with the strawberries, but certainly will now:) So much fun to learn new ways of doing things. So much inspiration flowing! xx Wow, Lucinda, I had no idea you had been that dry!!! xx We are being just drenched again!

  7. Okay now I feel like a numpty, I’ve dried and used strawberry leaves from the larger fruiting varieties for tea but never eaten them raw or the wild ‘alpine’ strawberries, I have an wild strawberry invasion in one of my beds and I composted a load yesterday, read you post today and I’m wishing I’d read it yesterday. I love the list of salad tastes, the citrus and bitter twist goes so well with chicken and fish. Like you I love walnut oil but it’s not on the menu currently whilst I’m dieting.

    I had the first cup of fresh Lemon Balm tea yesterday, what joy, picking it from the garden and sipping the tea whilst contemplating the next garden move, as Lucinda says the weather here in the UK has been so warm for the time of year, men removing shirts, shorts and ice cream vans everywhere. Last week we had a day in the mid 70′s(F), today the wind has blown a gale making everything feel rather cold but the sun has been shining and the ground is very dry and I’ve also had to go out watering the plants which is rather unusual for April, no April showers so far, it’s about 2 weeks since it rained here! Thanks for sharing the salad tips flower, I’ll keep them in mind when I’m wandering round the garden now everything is growing.

    Herby Hugs – Debs x

    • on May 2, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Reply Danielle Charles

      It seems that things always work out that way – you learn about something just a moment too late. Though, I’m sure you’ll have a few back to try before you know it – there is always that consolation with weedy plants :) I’m enjoying picturing you sipping your lemon balm tea and contemplating your garden. Mine isn’t quite big enough to harvest yet, but soon – and then I will think of you when I drink a cup in my garden! Maybe May will bring you more showers to quench the poor ground’s thirst. We have a week of rain ahead of us, and I would gladly send some your way ;)

      XOXO
      D


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  • The Teacup Chronicles is a seasonally minded blog about health and wellness, written by a clinical herbalist and self proclaimed kitchen witch. It contains herb-lore, delicious recipes, dietary suggestions and more to encourage vibrant health, balance and delight in every season. Grab a cup of tea, pull up a chair and join me in exploring just how gratifying and delicious cultivating good health can be.
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