The plant kingdom is an amazing place.  Since it’s gotten warm this April, the outdoors has opened up and everything has started sprouting and blooming and it’s just so beautiful!  One thing I noticed this year (as I do every year) is the insane population of dandelions that paint the fields and lawns of Blacksburg yellow for a week before they get mowed down.  I’m sure dandelions are prolific elsewhere, but there’s a hill into my neighborhood that was carpeted this year.  Driving past that grand swath of yellow each day is quite impressive.

This year, I decided to harvest my portion of the dandelions for salad and greens purposes.  I had wanted to harvest the sunny blossoms to make a big batch of dandelion wine (and quote Bradbury in a blog post) but they got mowed the Friday afternoon before my Saturday off. Sadface.  But!  Before that I went out and bagged a whole bunch!

Not only that, but I found a nice colony of sheep sorrel!  I’ve been looking for sorrel for a while because I’ve wanted to make sorrel soup.  I love sour things, and used to routinely eat oxalis (which looks like teeny tiny clover) from my backyard when my mom wasn’t looking.  Sheep sorrel is related to oxalis and has a similar flavor.  Also, like dandelions, it’s long been known and used as a folk remedy for everything under the sun including cancers, and is packed with nutrition (vitamins, minerals, and useful phyto-chemicals).

But!  Bear in mind- in an earlier post about kale I talked about how oxalates prevent the uptake of dietary calcium and can contribute to kidney stones.  Sheep sorrel tastes like oxalis because they both contain high levels of oxalates.  I don’t think that feeding myself or my husband a meal or two of sheep sorrel will cause us to bend over in crippling kidneystone pain or our bones to snap- but it’s something to be aware of if you have dietary issues.

Everybody should know what a dandelion looks like.  You eat the smaller leaves in salads, the larger ones you cook like typical bitter greens (collards, kale, etc.).  Sheep sorrel took me by surprise!  It has leaves shaped like arrow-heads, or spear-heads and is small.  I found mine to be smaller than the average dandelion, so if you look up photos on the internet, their scale may be deceptive.

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Dandelion on the left, sheep sorrel on the right (it’s spear-head looks a little blunted here, it was curly).

IMPORTANT:  Try to avoid harvesting wild greens from places you know are sprayed with pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, or other chemicals.  If you’re unsure and can’t ask anybody- find a different place to harvest.  Roundup salad is not where it’s at.  And, be sure to wash all your greens thoroughly because they’ll be naturally dirty to some extent, and you don’t know what sort of animal might have passed by in the past.

The awesome thing about finding these two extremely nutritious edible wild greens is that they balance each other out in a salad like crazy!  Dandelions are extremely bitter, and sheep sorrel is incredibly sour.  In fact, a wild salad may be too intense for most people to actually eat.  But here’s my take on it anyways!

Wild Salad: Dandelion and Sheep Sorrel        {serves 1 but can scale up}

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Ingredients:

handful of Small dandelion leaves

handful of sheep sorrel

balsamic vinegar

extra virgin olive oil

handful of walnuts

crumble of feta

Directions:

Wash greens well and dress via drizzling.  Sprinkle with feta and walnuts.  Could be dressed with lemon juice, almonds, sesame oil, the options are endless.

 

In the end, what’s really incredible about a wild salad is that it’s entirely free!  It’s got zero packaging waste, no fertilizers or extra water was used to grow the greens, no fuel was burned transporting it into a store for you to transport home.  It grew- in the dirt- in a place I could walk to and pick, and then eat.  Extremely healthy, provides a gentle work-out and light sun exposure, environmentally friendly like mad (I didn’t harvest all the dandelion and sorrel by any means).  It doesn’t get much better than that!

On the heels of this free wild salad, I also found that you really can regrow certain food scraps.  I made leek and potato soup last week and decided to save the butt-end of my leek to see if it would grow.  I put it in a plastic container of water and left it in the sun.  It’s ALIVE, and looks like a funky pineapple.  I’m thinking I’m going to replant it in dirt soon because I don’t want it to run out of nutrition.  A longer post about food scrap regrowth later after more experimentation.

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