You'll have guessed it, I'm talking about Nature's very own wild garden!
It's a Wild, Wild World
Funny how seemingly small and insignificant events can trigger a domino effect. For me, it all started earlier this spring when I purchased some wild Salmon Seal shoots at our community's awesome little whole food store.
I was so thrilled at the prospect of trying my first wild greens, I was barely out of there before I was already munching on my new find. The shoots were tender and their taste reminiscent of asparagus. Delish!
Seeing my interest, John told me about a woman living around here, Shanoon, who is very knowledgeable in local edible and medicinal plants. In fact, she even conducts herb walks in the Crown land surrounding the Retreat Center, as it is such a wild treasure chest!
That's it! I was hooked! Suddenly I felt like Alice, on the verge of discovering a whole new world I was vaguely aware of, but had never dared exploring before. Sure, I'd heard that you could harvest wild edibles, but my knowledge pretty much ended at berries and good ol' dandelion.
I called Shanoon as soon as I got home and lured her into giving me a little private wilderness tour with the promise of a raw feast. (Always a nice card to play! he he)
Take a Walk on the Wild Side
Armed with my camera and notebook, I finally entered the fascinating world of wild plants, with Shanoon guiding the way. The woman is a walking encyclopedia! I was enthralled by the information she was revealing to me and was reminded, once again, of Life's endless mysteries.
"There is always more to learn!", she told me with sparkling eyes. Her passion for Nature and its secrets just jumps at you and, what more, it is totally contagious!
Meet Nature's Incr'edible' Weeds
During our short walk, she pointed out some 30 different plants along the way! But for the purpose of this post, I thought I'd focus on the edible varieties.
Let's begin with one you are most likely familiar with already...
The fruit of Solomon Seal is also edible raw and is a good source of vitamin C. In the old days, it was used to prevent scurvy. As I was mentioning earlier, the young shoots can be picked in the spring and make an excellent substitute for asparagus.
Additionally, Solomon Seal can be used as a poultice in cases of strains, wounds or to reduce swelling.
And finally, the beautiful Tiger Lilies aka Woodland Lilies
Not pictured here are Clovers, but I figured you already know what these look like. Both leaves and young flowering heads of red and white clover are edible. The young leaves are harvested before the plant comes into flower, and are used in smoothies, salads, soups, etc
Oh, and let's not forget dandelion! According to Alternative- Healthzine.com, dandelion "is a source of potassium, sodium, calcium, phosphorus and iron. The leaves are a richer source of Vitamin A than carrots and contain some amounts of Vitamins B, C and D."
Other common edible 'weeds' include:
- Borage leaves and flowers
- Chicory greens and flowers
- Fiddlehead ferns
- Miner’s lettuce
- Stinging nettles
Why Eat Wild?
In a previous post on greens, I was telling you how green vegetables are essential for optimal health. It is also important to consume a variety of them in order to get a wide range of nutrients.
In her article "How To Go More Green In YOUR Diet", Karen Knowler points out that "it's vital for all of us to eat wild greens. These greens are (for the most part) as natural and potent as you’re going to get because they're (typically) untouched by man and have not been treated in any way... AND you really feel the difference when you eat wild foods - they're electric!"
Not surprisingly, the Boutenko family is also into eating wild edibles. According to Victoria, these "often contain more vitamins and minerals than commercially marketed plants."
Why is that you ask? "Weeds have not been “spoiled” with farmers’ care in contrast to the “good” plants of the garden," she explains in the article "Are There Enough Greens in Our Stores?". "In order to survive in spite of constant weeding, pulling, and spraying, weeds had to develop strong survival properties. For example, in order to stay alive without being watered, most weeds have developed unbelievably long roots... As a result, all wild plants possess more nutrients than commercially grown plants."
The Wild Table
The art of preparing food with wild edibles is known as 'wild-crafting'. As I've been suggesting, 'weeds' can be used pretty much in the same manner as store-bought greens: in smoothies, soups, salads, or other savory dishes.
Here are a few recipes that can be prepared with wild plants...
It is said that Lambsquarters is a close cousin of spinach, only it contains a lot more goodies. You can therefore use it in any recipe that calls for spinach, including this next one.
Adapted from mariquita.com
This salad is hearty and delicious!!! Super-nutritious too!
2 cups Lambsquarters greens
2 green onions or 2 heaping Tbsp red onion, minced
4 oz feta cheese (see recipes below)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup olives, chopped
2 tsp oregano (fresh if possible!)
Try to use the young, tender Lambsquarter leaves from plants about 1 foot tall or so for this salad.
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp fresh herbs or 1 Tbsp dried (your choice, try dill, parsley, or oregano)
1/4 tsp coarse ground black pepper
Blend dressing ingredients together in a blender until smooth. Coat the salad just before serving.
No worries, ingenius raw chefs have also managed to come up with awesome vegan renditions of feta cheese. Take your pick!
Almond Feta Cheese
By Karen Parker
1 1/2 cups almonds, soaked for 12 hours
1 cup cashews, soaked for 12 hours
1/4 cup light miso (such as chickpea or 'golden' miso)
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
1/4 cup basil
3 tablespoons fresh oregano, minced
4 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
3 tablespoons fresh white sage, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon white pepper
2 teaspoons Celtic sea salt
1/4 cup leeks, minced
Homogenize almonds in Green Life or Champion juicer (if you don't have a juicer, mix 2 cups water with almonds in high-speed blender until creamy. Then strain through fine-mesh bag. Keep almond pulp in mesh bag.
In blender, combine miso, water, herbs, oil, salt, white pepper and leeks until very creamy. It should taste too salty. Pour miso mixture into mesh bag, catching all liquid that comes out. Continue to squeeze liquid out of bag until no more will come out.
Spoon almond pulp onto a Paraflexx sheet on a dehydrator tray. Keep pulp in crumbled form; do not break chunks up. Dehydrate at 90 degrees for 8 hours or until completely dry. Keeps in sealed glass jar in cooler for up to 4 weeks.
MO BETA FETA CHEESE
By Melissa Davison
1 cup almond pulp from almond milk
4 Tbsp thyme chopped fine
Pinch of celtic sea salt
1 Tbsp lime or lemon juice
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 clove garlic, finely minced
2 tsp sundried tomato powder
Mix all ingredients in a bowl, fluff with a fork. Better if left to marinate a few minutes. Add to favorite salad. Refrigerate in a sealed container up to one week.
The entire edition of the Raw Family June 2006 Newsletter was dedicated to Lambsquarters. Included was the following recipe:
Lambsquarters and Tomato Salad
By The Raw Family
This delicious salad has a unique taste and is only available in the summer.
4 cups lambsquarters
2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 bunch dill weed, chopped
I lemon juiced
1 avocado, mashed
Add sea salt if desired
Raw Family's June Newsletter only just came out and talks about the benefit of Stinging Nettle. Sergei is particularly into wild edibles. In fact, he has been conducting hikes in the Oregon woods, teaching people about Nature's 'superfoods'. To find out more about what he's been up to, visit his website:
In the meantime, here is one of Sergei's wild-crafted recipe:
Stinging Nettle Pesto
By Sergei at www.rawfamily.com
½ cup of stinging nettle leaves
½ cup of pine nuts
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup of sun dried tomatoes (optional)
Blend nettles in blender to destroy spines. Add remaining ingredients and blend thoroughly. Add more oil or lemon juice if necessary. Serve like regular pesto on crackers, bread, pasta, etc.Serves 3
Note: You can sign up for their awesome newsletter on Raw Family's site.
Here are some of the ways we've been enjoying our wild harvest...
Wild Gogi Green Smoothie
3 cups spinach
1 cup Salmon Seal
1/4 cup soaked gogi berries (about 1/8 cup dry)
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lime
2 cups apple juice
2 cups water
Blend until smooth.
Yields 7 to 8 cups
This next recipe may not be the prettiest (sorta looks like 'swamp goo' as my friend Fairygirl would say), but don't be fooled! It is nutritious, filling, and yes, yummy too!
Blended Salad Gone Wild
1 cup yellow or red peppers, roughly chopped
1 cup cucumber, peeled and diced
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 cup lettuce
1 cup spinach
1 cup wild greens of choice
2 small green onions
1/4 cup parsley
3 stalks of celery
1 small avocado
1 teaspoon agave nectar (optional)
1 sheet of nori, shredded
2 tablespoons dulse flakes or wakame
1 tablespoon paprika (optional)
Water (as needed)
Blend the tomato, pepper and cucumber first, until they turn liquid. Then add in the lemon juice, greens, avocado, and broken up nori, pushing with the celery stalks, until the entire mixture is blended. Add some water if you find the mixture too thick or difficult to blend. Flavor with dulse flakes and/or paprika, if desired.
Carmella's Note: Blended salads are meant to be on the thick side.
As you can guess, I didn't find these two during one of my wild excursions; they were cozily nested in our small flower garden. Aren't they just gorgeous? And their aroma is unbelievable! According to Don, this first one smells what the color 'purple' should smell like! Sounds strange, but actually, I'd have to agree! he he
Hum... I wonder if we could eat these too!?! (Oh, oh... I think I've become obsessed about eating anything that grows! lol)
When I look at the surrounding wilderness, I now see a whole new world, waiting to be explored and enjoyed; a 'wild produce' section right outside my door! How cool is that!?!
No need to tell you I cannot wait for berry season to hit! We have lovely thimbleberries, blackberries and saskatoons. And, if we're lucky, the bears might just leave us a few huckleberries too!
What about you? What wild harvest is growing in your backyard?
For more information on wild edibles, here are two excellent websites: