Early Spring Foraging

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The snow has thawed and the abundance of spring is beginning to show itself! Today was a glorious sunny day, and Amara and I went out to take a look at what was happening the warmer climate of Penn Valley.  Our friend Margo greeted us with a smile and we took a short walk to the luscious green carpet growing under some oaks.

Amara quickly spotted the miner’s lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata) and started chomping away at these sweet succulent, greens.  Miner’s lettuce is one of the most popular foraged foods around here – its yummy, abundant, and its structure makes it pretty darn easy to identify (it kind of looks like a green “gold pan” with a white flower in the middle where a chunk of gold might be).  Miner’s lettuce is tasty, has a pleasant consistency, and is a good source of Vitamin C to boot.

Near miner’s lettuce you will often find chickweed – another early spring sweet and succulent treat.   We found some delicious tendrils of chickweed (Stellaria media) in the patch and filled our mouths and our baskets.   Chickweed is cooling, rich in calcium and vitamin C, and is a great topical treatment for diaper rash and other hot skin irritations.

We moved out of the cool shade and found a nice spot in the warm early spring sun, carefully avoiding the spikes of a prolific young thistle.   The small young leaves tasted kind of green but also had a hint of sweetness. Inspired by Linda Runyon and her tales of thistle-eating, I took some home to see if those spikes would perhaps soften in a ghee saute.

Amara, like most all 3-year olds, loves to cook and thus took charge of sauteing the greens when we got home.  She made it clear that she was not going to eat the spiky leaves, just cook them.  But of course, you can’t resist trying what you cook yourself, so she ventured her hand into the thistle greens and took a bite….

As you see, she was not impressed.  I ate a few myself.  The young spikes on the leaves softened a little bit, but I made sure to REALLY chew thoroughly before swallowing, because the spikes were still, well, not the kind of texture you want to send down your throat.   The taste was similar to a collard.  Next time, I’ll wait until the leaves are bigger and then cut off the spikes before cooking!

As far as the chickweed and miner’s lettuce, they were prepared as a fresh salad and were quite delicious!