Friday, April 18, 2014

Lawn treats

By: Mary Oleksowicz, MSTOM , L.Ac

Spring greens are an excellent way to begin to switch your diet to a more seasonal menu.  Many examples of spring greens can be found in your local produce section or farmer’s market. These greens would include:
  • Arugula 
  • Radicchio
  • Collards 
  • Kale 
  • Endive 
  • Escarole 
  • Spinach
  • Parsley 
  • Watercress
  • Red or green mustard greens
I enjoy harvesting spring greens not only from my garden but from my lawn and backyard as well . LAWN ?!?!  That’s right I said lawn. Many spring greens are considered weeds by most. However they can be harvested from pesticide and herbicide free areas with little effort. Examples of these would include:
  • Nettles 
  • Dandelion greens
  • Sorrel 
While traditionally, many of these plants would be harvested in late March or early April, the long winter that much of the United States has encountered has delayed the growing season.  
Harvesting nettles is the most difficult of the greens listed here. You would need sturdy leather gloves as the plant tends to “sting” when touched with bare hands.
Stinging Nettle StingersStinging Nettle photo
You would also need scissors and protective clothing on as nettles grow in areas that may have dense weeds.  Nettles are rich in vitamin C, flavonoids, and histamine all of which are helpful components in assisting the body during the spring allergy season. Look for tender young plants, put on your gloves, and cut off only the upper leaves (no larger than about 3” wide).Check the undersides of the leaves  for absence of white spittle and cut the leaves from the stems as you go. Plants should be no higher than your knees in order to be young enough to harvest.  One shopping bag full is often enough for a soup or lasagna base.   
 Dandelions are much easier to harvest. The entire plant is edible but in the spring the tender basal rosettes provide the cleansing benefits we associate with spring greens without the bitterness of older leaves.  Roots if harvested can also be roasted and used as tea. I enjoy the tender leaves sautéed with garlic and olive oil or placed into salad mix to contrast the natural sweetness of other greens.  
One of my favorite “lawn” treats is common wood sorrel. Many people would refer to the common wood sorrel as a “shamrock”. Eating these plants increases vitamin C Historically, it was used to treat scurvy, fevers, and sore throats.  There are no poisonous look-alikes.  Clover is often mistaken for wood sorrel but clover is not poisonous. So this is a great starter plant to forage for those who are not brave of heart.  The addition of dandelion, sorrel and even clover  can definitely add a wonderful twist to your salad this weekend.
Wood Sorrel in Flower
Harvesting dandelions and sorrel can be a wonderful family activity and adds an interesting conversation to the dinner table. I hope that the weather is nice enough this weekend, so you and your loved ones can enjoy harvesting fresh spring greens together!!


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