Spring Foraging in the New England Back Yard

I’d call this living off the fat of the land, but I haven’t been able to procure any of the wild turkeys or white-tailed deer that sometimes roam past.  For one, I’m too close to neighbors to be shooting off arrows or firing guns.  I have hard enough time getting a good shot at them with my camera.

Right now I’ve simply been foraging up some of those rooted items that can’t get away.  By the way, be certain only to forage on property where herbicides aren’t laid down.  (But you already knew that.)

Romulea rosea

The first thing that telegraphs its appearance to me is the onion grass.  This early-growing allium (Romulea rosea) looks superficially like a lawn grass, and in my case is currently looking much better than my lawn grasses.  It tastes much like chives.  These work nicely in salads for a little tang, but are too delicate to cook.

A saunter through Wikipedia tells me that it is has been naturalized here from South Africa.  The photo at their website shows pretty flowers that I’ve never seen on mine.  Perhaps the lawn mower comes by too soon.


Next are the dandelions (Taraxacum officinale, or quite possibly but less likely T. erythrospermum), and while they will be around all year, and still edible, they’re on the bitter side of things when the leaves get larger.   The small leaves can be either added to a salad or lightly steamed.  The flowers can be picked for dandelion wine; I haven’t made this, but I have indeed tasted it. The lawn mower does not come often enough to keep these things from flowering and then going to seed, but oh well.  Free greens!  They’ve spread worldwide to all temperate zones.

Alliaria petiolata

And the latest, popping up from nowhere, the garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata).  This one likes borders between lawns/fields and more wooded areas.  It is indeed in the mustard, not allium, family.  Its crushed leaves smell mildly of garlic, and a hint remains in the taste.  The smaller leaves tend to be better (less tough) than the bottom, large leaves.  Use is best in salads, but better yet not to encourage the plant at all.

Until a couple years ago, I wasn’t aware it is considered in many areas to be an invasive.  According to Wikipedia (and I don’t see a strong reason to doubt this), “Garlic mustard was introduced in North America as a culinary herb in the 1860s and is an invasive species in much of North America and is listed as a noxious or restricted plant as of 2006 in the US states of Alabama, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oregon, Vermont, West Virginia and Washington.”   Yes, it is invasive — (although on my lot it hasn’t seemed to move from the border between lawn and undisturbed understory yet, but that’s maybe because the cursed barberry has gotten there first…), and it seems to get those little flowerets almost immediately after popping up, so it isn’t always an easy plant to manage.   It’s an Old World plant — Europe and western Asia.

So I do my part:  uproot some, eat some, uproot more.

For today’s salad:  One large red leaf lettuce leaf (from farmer’s market), and a harvest of (mostly) garlic mustard with a nice portion of dandelion leaves and onion grass.  Wash, chop up (remove garlic mustard stems), add a simple dressing (1 part apple cider vinegar to 2 parts extra virgin olive oil; I like my dressings on the tart side) — a little cracked black pepper wouldn’t have been amiss — photograph and eat.

Foraged Spring Salad

Very good, looking forward to more from spring!

Rating:  5 out of 5. 


About goatsandgreens

The foodie me: Low/no gluten, low sugars, lots of ethnic variety of foods. Seafood, offal, veggies. Farmers' markets. Cooking from scratch, and largely local. The "future" me: I've now moved to my new home in rural western Massachusetts. I am raising chickens (for meat and for eggs) and planning for guinea fowl, Shetland sheep, and probably goats and/or alpaca. Possibly feeder pigs. Raising veggies and going solar.
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