Monday, February 21, 2011

Winter greens

It's that time of year again, at least for those of us with the cold-rain version of February outside: weed foraging. Our next door neighbor just told me her mother's secret for dandelion greens, which is to harvest now, with the early spring cold rains. The interesting thing about this is that whether you're harvesting dandelion to kill it or just to eat it, this is still one of the best times, the time of the most tender, least-bitter greens, and also the time when the plant is relatively weak, and vulnerable to being pulled.

Garlic mustard (see Sheila Rodger's photo at left) is also at its best time. With garlic mustard, my goal is definitely to kill it (and unfortunately for cooking demos, I think I succeeded last year - I don't have many rosettes of it out back this spring), but using it in February or March yields strong garlic flavor with less bitterness.

And then don't forget the winter annuals - chickweed, cuckooflower (another Sheila photo at left) - perhaps not at their largest yet, but definitely at a good stage for some "spring tonic", as the first greens of spring used to be called, back when lettuce wasn't a year-round staple at the grocery supercenter. Red sorrel, overwintering at ground level, can give some oxalic acid-punch before the rhubarb is up yet. Your wild garlic is out there now, just waiting to masquerade as the freshest chives.

I worry about sounding like a salesperson when I talk about weeds like this, and yes, if you want to find these plants and don't know what they look like, of course you could buy my latest book, and I'd be grateful. But whatever education you need is your own business: the weeds are out there, if not *in* your yard then close by, just waiting for you. No one is going to mind if you take them. Call it your own personal grocery self-checkout line, with no line.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Good Weed, Bad Weed: It's Here!

I got home today to find a stack of boxes in my garage: the long awaited copies of my latest weed book, Good Weed, Bad Weed, from St. Lynn's Press. The timing is just right for spring - before the lawn trucks begin their trolling around for customers, before the new weeds take off, before the garlic mustard begins growing...and the same day I saw the first daffodil shoot poking up in front of our house.

Not long before it's time to go out and collect Japanese knotweed shoots for strawberry-knotweed pie, too; the first weed recipe for spring!