Friday, April 15, 2011

Chickweed...It's What's For Dinner!

Do folks trample potential dinner fare, abundant treasure trod underfoot? Or worse yet, are nutritionally rich "salad greens" killed chemically in the name of the 'perfect lawn?' Next time you weed out those dandelions or yank up some wood sorrel, think about tossing it into the salad bowl instead of the compost pile!

For years I have been interested in and reading about wild edlibles. Not only are they free, healthy, abundant, and easy to use...they may become a necessity in years to come. It is only recently that I have been using Nature's harvest consistently in my diet. Yesterday on my walk I gathered an abundance of Chickweed for my salad. Today Travis is taking the boys hunting for wild mushrooms (Morel). There is something very satisfying about foraging and consuming wild foods.

Pictured here is the graceful  seed stalk of the Shepherd's purse plant, named for its delicate heart shaped seed purses. I love the way each little seed pocket gracefully suspends from the stalk, gently cupping upward. The base leaves of the Shepherd's purse can be used as salad greens or cooked like spinach.

Here is the feature of my walk...the lush prolific chickweed carpeting the floor of the pine woods. My sister, Colleen, made me a lovely salve concocted from chickweed, beeswax, olive oil, and essential oils. It smells so good and earthy and can be used for all manner of purposes: cuts, dry skin, rashes, insect bites....I love it!

Colleen's husband, an amazing chef at the Clifton (in Charlottesville) has been using fresh foraged chickweed in his cooking. Chickweed usually grows in abundant patches, and the top tips of the plant should be harvested, flower and all..and used as is (in salads) or cooked like spinach. if you are serious about using any wild edible, here is the man you want to get to know : Wildman Steve Brill

Foraging can quickly become a creative and enjoyable pastime! A word of caution, however: Please make sure you know what you are doing! Identifying edible plants is not hard! But there is some know-how involved, and some plants do have poisonous look-alikes. Don't let it scare you; for the most part all the edible plants that you would ever want to eat are very easy to identify! Start out with something easy and go from there.

I continued on my walk, savoring the beauty of the valley in Spring...all newness of life cloaked in green...

The next picture was from a couple of days ago. Doesn't it look different? Still beautiful in its own way.

I love looking out my kitchen window in Spring... seeing the laundry blowing in the breeze, the apple tree blossoms, mint coming up in the 'Mary garden,' chickens scurrying under window, children's loudness carrying in, blue of mountain a backdrop to unfolding green...

And there's a funny happiness and satisfaction that comes from perfecting cream biscuits...the perfect accompaniment to sauteed chickweed!
Oh...and here's the recipe for the biscuits:  How To Make The Best Biscuits Ever

Happy Foraging!