Monday, April 14, 2008

Forage Change of Pace

Despite the cooler weather this weekend, spring has definitely made an appearance with the return of golden daffodil and forsythia blossoms. And as the grass greens up once more, I long to do the same with my dinner plate.

Unfortunately, I still haven't had a chance to plant my Victory Garden since March's snowstorms set our preparation schedule behind, and my windowsill pots have been sorely neglected of late, leaving me with a handful of unthinned, small-leaved leggy seedlings.

But never fear... Spring has a way of providing good, fresh, nutritious greens where you least expect it. And while I visited the farm this weekend, I went out rambling and spotted a few places where I could forage some wild edible plants (otherwise known as weeds).

I've had my eye on the farm as a potential source of dandelions for dandelion wine this year. They're not blooming yet, so I wasn't able to harvest blossoms, but I did manage to pick lots of greens (and I'll write up a separate post about that once I've been able to use them).

I also lucked out in finding a couple of thick patches of chickweed, a wild edible I've never tried harvesting before. It wasn't much of a picnic to bend over in the pelting sleet to pick this creeping plant, but I ended up with a large storage bag filled with greens from my efforts.

Like other wild edibles, chickweed has an astounding bounty of vitamins (especially C) and minerals, and it has medicinal uses as well as culinary. And though chickweed makes a great addition to spring salads, I found myself remembering Ed's tribute to chickweed pesto over at The Slow Cook and knew I wanted to make that instead.

Intrigued by my enthusiasm for the weeds outside the barn, the Renaissance Man willingly allowed me to store my find in his refrigerator upon our return home as well as to take over his kitchen this evening in order to make the pesto.

As with basil pesto, the chickweed combines with garlic, olive oil, nuts (walnuts in this case), a bit of Parmesan cheese, and a sprinkling of pepper. After a quick buzz in the food processor, all the ingredients turned into a sharply fragrant thick sauce -- perfect! (And unlike basil pesto, it didn't lose its fresh green color after a bit of time!)

I tossed the pesto into some cooked whole wheat spaghetti and added just a few oven-dried tomatoes for color, and in almost no time, we had a simple but incredibly satisfying and fresh-tasting meal. I was taken by the tang of the chickweed holding its own against the pungent garlic, and I think the Renaissance Man really enjoyed knowing that weeds could taste so good.

Since I only managed to use about a third of the greens I had picked, I'll need to spend more time tomorrow or later this week in cleaning the rest of the chickweed (a very fussy task, but well worth it) and enjoying it in a salad or more pesto. (I'm leaning toward the latter.) It's such a treat to have fresh greens again!

And I'm sure that the next time I visit the farm, I'll have book in hand, looking for more weeds to follow.


At 4/19/2008 6:08 PM, Blogger Ed Bruske said...

so much chickweed, so little time

At 4/21/2008 7:34 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

So true, Ed... and I found more patches around the edges of the woods yesterday, not to mention May apples, shepherd's purse, and other dandy things. What a great place for foraging!


Post a Comment

<< Home