You needn’t be a full-time, experienced or savvy forager to take advantage of the wonderful wild food all around us. With simple additions of two or three wild herbs, flowers, seeds or greens, an ordinary dish can be made into something which is visually and nutritionally superior to its standard self. Salads are perhaps the easiest place to get started. The ingredients will vary from week to week, depending on what is growing in your garden, near-by wild areas or even in your flower pots. Just be sure you know what you are picking, and that it is indeed an edible plant.
My salad today was inspired by what I found in the garden while out weeding. The base for it is what is growing in the garden at this time of year, namely lettuce and cucumbers (of which I have an alarming amount!) and beet greens, which in this case are actually deep red. Beyond that I noticed a lot of red and blue and decided to work with these as if they were my palette for a salady creation.
Even though the colour didn’t fit, I picked some purslane, probably the single most nutritious plant growing in any garden. I have way more this year than any previous year, and am determined to make good use of it while it lasts.
For the red theme, I also used the young leaves of red amaranth which has successfully seeded itself each year.
And purple basil.
For the blue, I used a few chicory flowers for a little bitterness
and borage flowers for a lot of sweetness, like honey.
and Johnny-Jump-Ups for a mild wintergreen flavour.
I considered using the goutweed next to it, but it didn’t fit in with the colour. This was not the only plant that had to be excluded because of its colour.
A few blackberries and a vinaigrette made by mixing some strained blackberry jam into the vinegar before combining it with oil and seasoning.
The final result was a wonderful mixture of sweet, bitter and sour, light and fresh with some robust flavour not always found in summer salads.
I will not likely be able to duplicate this exact recipe as one or more of the ingredients will soon no longer be available, but I will continue to experiment with wild ingredients, and hope you will give it a go too.