(Image courtesy of www.blueplatechicago.com)
This month at Allergic to Salad, we’re on a RAMPage, celebrating the wild edibles the earth has to offer in our own backyards. As the weather gets warmer, we’re all spending more time outside, enjoying the warmth and the sunshine. While you’re strolling through the park or going hiking in the country, why not mix up your routine with some foraging?
Here are some delicious plants you might find out in the wilds of New York City (or at your local farmer’s market)…
Ramps (Allium tricoccum)
(Image courtesy of www.sproutdistro.com)
Not quite a scallion nor a leek, ramps are mildly pungent and first start popping up in early springtime. With white bulbs, pink stalks and delicate greens, they’re a welcome reprieve from all of the browns and grays of winter. Especially prevalent in the Appalachian Mountains, ramps pack a powerful nutritional punch with their high Vitamin C content. As a result of these amazing attributes, they’ve become very popular over the course of the past few years, leading to over-harvesting. If you decide to go foraging for ramps, be sure to leave the roots and bottom half of the bulbs in the ground so new leaves have the chance to grow. Only harvest from one plant out of twenty, and only in areas where they are widespread and plentiful. If you are able to plant and propagate a ramp patch on your own land, do that to ensure their continued existence. Respecting the earth always comes first!
Chickweed (Stellaria media)
(Image courtesy of www.wildedible.com)
Chance are, you’ve seen chickweed growing in your backyard or garden at some point. While often regarded as a pest, this wild edible has superb nutritional value and a mild, delicate flavor. Try tossing it in a salad or substituting it for sprouts on a healthy, hearty sandwich! To harvest, simply trim the leaves and thinner portions of the stem with scissors. While resilient and prolific in the ground, cut chickweed may not hold up well in the fridge, so eat at your earliest convenience. This is one plentiful edible, so feel free forage with abandon (just make sure you’re confident identifying it)!
To make a healing skin oil or a base for nutritious vinaigrettes, infuse some olive (or avocado or almond) oil with fresh chopped chickweed. Wash and dry the chickweed fully, letting the plant matter dry out as much as possible, before chopping finely. Add the chickweed to a sterilized glass jar and cover with oil; stirring to get out any air bubbles before covering with a lid. Seal tightly and store the jar out of direct light. Shake the jar once a day for 3-6 weeks and then strain into another sterilized jar or bottle, and then your chickweed-infused oil is ready for use!
(Image courtesy of www.westcoastseeds.com)
This is another wild edible you’ve likely encountered yards and parks many a time. While pesky, these little flowers are chock-full of Vitamins A, E, K, and more, so if you can tolerate their bitterness, you’ll reap plenty of nutritional benefits. Now is the best time to harvest dandelions, since they’ll only get more sour as summer rolls around. Avoid the stems and stick to the flowers for a more mild flavor. Toss these vibrant yellow stars in a salad or try making some homemade dandelion tea!
Curious to learn more about foraging in the five boroughs? Be on the lookout for walks through Central and Prospect Parks where you can hunt for your own wild edibles!
Today, we’ll be using our wild edible knowledge to make a delicious pesto with either ramps or chickweed. Serve it atop pasta with a dandelion-studded side salad for a delicious spring meal.
- 2 cups fresh leaves, perhaps chickweed or ramps
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup unsalted pepitas
- 1/2 tsp lemon juice
- 1/4 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt
- toasted bread, to serve
Add the olive oil, pepitas, garlic, lemon juice and salt to food processor. Blend until it is a thick paste, scraping sides of processor with a spatula. Add leaves and parmesan cheese. Blend until basil is well incorporated. Serve with crusty toasted bread. Keeps about 3-4 days in the refrigerator. Can be frozen.
Get out there and explore the crazy plants New York City has to offer, Allergic to Salad readers!
See you next time,
The Allergic to Salad Team