Spring Yard Foray
Updated: Mar 8, 2019
Spring has finally arrived in Alberta and, along with birdsong and bicycles, this means a whole lot of green. Green - a favourite colour of humans! In the landscape it suggests abundance and moisture; in nutrition, green leaves are the most nutrient-dense of all vegetables, packed with heaps of vitamins and minerals including the ever-needed magnesium, heart of the chlorophyll molecule.
Wild plants tend to have much higher levels of phytonutrients (those multitudinous, but lesser-known compounds with all manner of healing properties) since these are the very things that give them vigour for survival in the absence of human coddling. How fortunate, then, that these green leafy wild things show up for our consumption even in the tightest of urban spaces. And how fortunate that they are at their edible best first thing in the spring when we are most needing their boost of fresh nutrition!
Last week I took a foray into my yard with bowl and scissors in hand. Accompanied by robin song and warm morning sun, I took delight in collecting whatever edible greens I could find both wild and cultivated. The result was fresh, flavourful, beautiful, as local as it gets, free of plastic packaging, and cost me nothing! Look outside your own door and see what medley you can find. (Be sure you know the species you're collecting and that the area hasn't had chemicals applied).*
Below are just some of the species my yard offered: (top) garden sorrel, fireweed shoots, yarrow leaves
(bottom) dandelion, lamb's quarters, creeping bellflower**
I also found chickweed, plantain, and perennial chives and oregano. A simple dressing of fresh lemon juice, olive oil, and a sprinkle of sea salt and pepper are all that are needed. These greens would be equally good whizzed into a pesto or cooked. Their flavour tends to be more assertive and even slightly bitter compared to the mildness of lettuce, but remember bitter foods are medicine!
As an aside, for the B&B spring means a whole array of new ingredients to work with for breakfasts. Stinging nettle has found its way onto the menu along with strawberries, rhubarb, asparagus, wild violets, and chives. So much fun!
*A wild edibles book or local plant expert are good guides to get started. For example:
-Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada (Lone Pine)
-The Boreal Herbal (Beverley Gray)
-Calgary herbalist Latifa Pelletier-Ahmed (www.latifasherbs.com)
**Creeping bellflower is a particularly tenacious (and that's putting it mildly!) invasive species which I loathed until I recently learned the leaves are edible and tasty.