I love spring so much more on the farm than I did living in the city. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate spring’s greens and blossoms as an urban dweller, but out here, it seems like every day I discover something new budding on a tree or popping out of the ground. No day here looks quite the same as the next.
As a novice forager, I get particularly excited about what can be found growing around our home that’s edible. Already this season, before our garden is even ready to be tilled, our plates have been full of locally sourced fare that Mother Nature gifted us. Here are a few things we’ve been munching on.
1. Wild Lettuce Salad
Last year, a lone wild lettuce plant grew outside of our window. I appreciated this gift at the time, as I was looking to make a pain-relieving tincture to help me through childbirth. Well, pregnancy got the best of me, and I ended up buying a tincture instead of making my own, so that lone plant re-seeded, and now I have a whole bed full of wild lettuce.
In the early stages—before it gets large and super bitter—wild lettuce makes a nice salad green, and its slight bitter quality aids in digestion. We’ve mixed it into dinner salads along with the chickweed and henbit growing alongside it in the garden bed. Once we get the herb garden tilled, I will transplant some wild lettuce there, and maybe this year I’ll get around to making that tincture.
2. Garlic Mustard Pesto
Garlic mustard, a European native, has become one of the most invasive plants in the U.S. We have plenty of it growing on our property, so I don’t hesitate at all to pull it up for a salad or a delicious pesto that can be used on pasta, in salad dressings or as a spread on sandwiches. Garlic mustard tastes just about like its name indicates, though I don’t find it to be as potent as either garlic or mustard greens.
3. Violet Ice Cream
Even though we don’t have the large swaths of violets some yards have this time of year, it’s hard to resist doing something lovely with the purple blooms growing along our forest creek beds. This year, I decided to make violet ice cream using some leftover violet syrup I made last year and blossoms I foraged this year. The result was a light and delicate dessert that’s pretty, too.
4. Redbud Dutch Baby
A hallmark of spring on our farm is the line of redbuds that separates our field from the forest’s edge. The purply-pink that paints the landscape fades all too quickly, so we have to drink in their beauty—and eat them, too—while we can. So far this year I’ve made pickled redbuds, which provide a colorful substitute for capers, and a lavender-redbud Dutch baby. This treat has surely been the highlight of my spring so far, but I have a few more plans in mind for the blossoms before they fade away.