Gardening Good Eating

A Couple of Quick and Easy Recipes

A Couple of Quick and Easy Recipes

by Carolyn Hasenfratz

fresh edibles from my garden
As a follow-up to my recent article on foraging for wild edibles, here are a couple more simple and easy ideas for getting interesting nutritious treats into your diet. It’s a lot of fun to go out in the garden and yard and decide “What looks good to eat today?” I also grow some things in my garden that could be fatal if I accidentally eat them so it’s critical to be able to identify what is in your foraging area.

Tuna Sandwiches With Wild Leaves

Wild edible leaves
Fresh garden herbs
2 cans tuna
Chopped crunchy vegetables

Go out to the garden and pick some large edible leaves. Rinse and dry them. I used wild Violet, Dandelion and Asiatic Dayflower for my test. Set aside.

In addition pick some more conventional herbs if you have them that would taste good in tuna salad such as Sage, Garlic Chives and Lemon Balm. Wash and chop herbs, and put in mixing bowl. Add two cans of tuna and some chopped crunchy vegetables. I used the Healthy 8 mixture from Trader Joe’s. No I’m not on the Trader Joe’s payroll but I buy this mixture a lot because it’s really convenient to add to all kinds of recipes, both raw and cooked.

Mix mayonnaise into your tuna salad and toast your favorite bread. Put tuna mixture on bread and top with your foraged edible leaves in place of lettuce. Yummy!


Quick Weed Soup

Wild edible leaves
Fresh garden herbs or greens
Broth or instant Miso soup packets
Kombu seaweed
Quick cooking vegetables such as edamame, mushrooms or sprouts
Optional – quick cooking proteins such as tofu cubes or small shrimp
Optional – wild Violet, Dandelion, Asiatic Dayflower or other edible flowers for garnish

Collect from your garden wild greens that taste good cooked such as Asiatic Dayflower, Dandelion and wild Violet. Be sure you are certain about identification, if not get help from an expert to avoid making mistakes with toxic plants. If you have other more conventional herbs from the garden that would taste good in an Asian-flavored soup, collect those too.

Wash herbs and leaves. Chop any herbs that need chopping.

Place herbs and leaves in a soup pot on the stove. Add your favorite broth or add water plus packets of instant Miso soup mix until the flavor is to your liking.

Cut sheets of Kombu seaweed into strips with a scissors and add to broth. Add quick cooking veggies and proteins if you are using any. Bring soup to a boil and check if the proteins are cooked through. Simmer for a few minutes more if needed, but if you used pre-cooked shrimp you probably won’t have to. If you have any edible flowers, sprinkle on top for garnish. If using Dandelion flowers, you should pull the petals out and discard the calyx to avoid bitterness. Enjoy!

In my opinion of the three wild leaves I used in my test, the Asiatic Dayflower was the most flavorful – it does taste like green beans as they say. The wild Violet and Dandelion are so nutritious I would not want to omit them but I would use them in smaller proportions for better overall flavor.

If you are interested you can read more of my recipes on my Fun With Food page.

Gardening Good Eating Outdoor Fun

You’d Be Happy Too If You Could Eat What Bugs You!

You’d Be Happy Too If You Could Eat What Bugs You!

by Carolyn Hasenfratz

You'd Be Happy Too If You Could Eat What Bugs You!

“You’d be happy too if you could eat what bugs you!” That’s what it says on a coffee cup that I bought for my Dad when I was a little kid. I chose the cup for Dad because the design was in his favorite colors, green and orange. I have to admit I liked that
it had a frog and a bug on it, two of my favorite things then and now!

I’m not yet at the point where I’m willing to experiment with eating bugs, but I’m intrigued by garden weeds that are edible. There is no doubt that gardeners are “bugged” by weeds but your attitude toward some of them might improve if you can harvest and eat them.

For example Dandelions, Wild Violets and Asiatic Dayflowers are common weeds in my garden and also delicious in a salad when young and tender. When I regularly pull the baby leaves, rinse and eat them I’m harvesting and enjoying a fresh and nutritious crop rather than dealing with something annoying. You should be very careful when foraging to make sure you’ve researched the wild plant you want to eat to make sure you have identified it correctly, are not confusing it with a poisonous look-alike and are picking it from an area that is free of toxins such as pesticides, herbicides or auto exhaust.

Unless you are extremely confident in your identification skills, my recommendation is to get some foraging instruction from an expert in person so you can actually see and taste the plants as you learn about them. To improve my skills in identifying edible wild plants, I attended a recent workshop at Litzinger Road Ecology Center given by Jan Phillips, author of Wild Edibles of Missouri. There must be a lot of interest in this topic because there were about 40 people there.

First we watched a slide presentation where we learned about some of the wild edibles available in Missouri. Did you know that you can eat Daylily buds, Plantain, Redbud flowers and Henbit? We learned about these and many more. When I was a kid my neighborhood friends and I used to eat the seed pods of the weed Yellow Wood Sorrel – we called them “pickles” because they have a tart taste. I thought we were just lucky not to be poisoned while experimenting, but it turns out that’s a well-known edible weed though some people can’t eat it because they are allergic to the oxalic acid it contains.

Foraging at Litzinger Road Ecology Center

After the slide show we split into groups and foraged over different areas of the property. My group picked a lot of Redbud flowers, Violets, Dandelions, Spring Beauty, Henbit and Plantain.

Eating the results

After foraging we brought our produce to the kitchen to wash and spin it. We then enjoyed some of it in salad. Chef Ryan Maher provided us with some delicious mushroom dressing to accompany the greens and flowers. Redbud and Dandelion flowers were cooked into pancakes for us to try. We enjoyed an array of other unusual treats that had been prepared ahead of time – teas brewed from things like Spicebush (that was my favorite), candied Peppermint leaves, Reindeer Lichen biscuits with Gooseberry jelly, wild nuts and more. Wild foraging is definitely a way to introduce some interesting new ingredients into your cooking!

Here is a salad recipe of mine that I like to mix with my “weed” greens.

Your favorite fresh greens from the garden
1 bulb fennel
1 cup mung bean sprouts
1 cup chopped kale (optional, if you need to boost the amount of greens)
1 cup broccoli slaw
Your favorite dressing (I mainly use vinegar and oil with a sprinkle of salt – edible weeds can be used to make flavored vinegars and tasty dressings also!)
Sprinkle dried cranberries and roasted pumpkin seeds on top

What chore sounds like more fun? Weeding, or picking some interesting food? Depending on what is growing in your garden, which task is awaiting might just depend on how you look at it!

Resources for more information on edible weeds and wild plants:
Link: Common Edible Weed Plants
Book: “Peterson Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants” by Lee Allen Peterson
Book: “Stalking the Wild Asparagus” by Euell Gibbons