We've had so some strange weather lately, but I do think it is finally spring. But a late spring means a short spring so keep you're eyes out for young, tender prickly pear pads, spiderwort leaves and flowers, wild onions and young plantain leaves -- their appearance will be brief though delicious!
My farm fields are full of Plantago lanceolata right now. I am harvesting it most days and throwing the greens into my kid's smoothies. Here's a bit from my guide on Plantago spp. and ways to eat it:
Plantain, Plantago species
Eat the leaves raw or cooked.
When Europeans arrived in the new world, they carried some of their most valuable potherb seeds with them. Potherbs, or any plant whose leaves, stems or flowers are used in cooking, quickly established in the new world and naturalized or adapted to survive in the wild. Many of these hardy potherbs were highly valued for their medicinal and nutritious qualities and were staples on the tables of early settlers. These days, most people consider them weeds. But their edible utility and culinary potential hasn’t changed. Creativity in the kitchen can bring these potherbs back en vogue, and back to our tables.
Plantain is one potherb that thrives in urban and rural areas though it is virtually forgotten as a useful plant. It is easy to distinguish from other common low-growers because its prominent leaf ribs run parallel to the margins or leaf edges, which may be smooth or have small teeth. Like shepherd’s purse, plantain leaves will also reveal a core fiber when pulled apart. The younger leaves will be smooth and tender while the older leaves might be thicker and slightly fuzzy. They are edible at any stage and are rich in Vitamin A and calcium. The tiny plantain seeds are also edible though harvesting and preparing them would be tedious work. However, they are a great source of fiber.
Plantain leaves will benefit from hydro-cooling and can be stored in the vegetable crisper for 3 to 4 days.
Warm Potherb Salad
Serves 4 to 6
Any wild green will work in this salad, though your best choices might be dandelion, plantain, chickweed, dock, mallow, wild spinach, wild mustard and amaranth.
½ lb. wild greens
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
4 strips bacon
2 slices French bread, cubed
1 hard boiled egg, crumbled
½ tsp. salt
black pepper to taste
Chop or tear the greens into bite-sized pieces. Toss the greens in a salad bowl with the oil and 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Fry the bacon and toss the bread in halfway through cooking. Add the bread and crumble the bacon and egg on top of the greens. Serve warm.
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