Day 218: Backyard Salad

I have to say, I love Fall in the Ozarks where it’s normally warm enough still to be able to go out and pick some tasty greens from the backyard. Those pictured above are a batch I threw in a beef stew for some added nutrients, but most of the greens I pick can be eaten raw as well.

Be cautious about where you pick your greens. Only gather from areas where no pesticides or herbicides are used. Avoid gathering from areas with a lot of vehicle traffic. Avoid gathering from sidewalks or near asphalt. Wash all foliage thoroughly before eating.

Here are some of my favorites that can be picked in the Spring and Fall. Maybe you have some growing around you as well?

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) greens are a great year-round green, packed full of nutrients and vitamins. I usually pull them up whole because I also use the root, but you can also just harvest the tender greens and flowers. The smaller the leaf the lighter the flavor. Dandelions are known to be very bitter so mixing them with other wild edibles is suggested.

Plantain, both the common (Plantago major) and the ribwort (Plantago lanceolata) varieties are great to eat and much like other greens are packed with vitamins and nutrients. The leaves can be eaten raw when small and tender but should be cooked with other greens when they are more mature. I usually harvest plantain like I do dandelions, root and all.

Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) and dead nettle (Lamium purpureum) are both very common backyard edibles that are normally found in the Spring, but can be gathered in the Fall as well, although they’re not likely to be blooming so know what the leaves look like. I’ve paired these two together because they are so often mistaken for each other, although if you study the photos below you’ll be able to distinguish the two without a problem. Henbit can be eaten raw, but dead nettle tends to be a little bitter and fuzzy, so cooking is recommended.

Lamb’s quarters (Chenopodium album) is most often found in the Spring, but occasionally pops up in the Fall and early winter. It’s an excellent salad or cooking green that’s high in protein, vitamin A, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium.

Violets (Viola) are another mostly forgotten potherb and salad green. There are many varieties, the ones growing in my yard have bluish-purple flowers that are without scent but still tasty. There’s also a few varieities that have very fragrant flowers that make a wonderful tea. The flowers and leaves are both wonderful eaten raw or cooked with other greens. Be aware, the root of the violet is a laxative and emetic, and the leaves of the yellow violet when eaten in a large quantity can be a laxative as well.

Chickweed (Stellaria media) is sometimes hard to identify, but look up some photos on google and you should be able to get it down. It’s generally considered a weed (like all of these edibles) and is often found coming up out of cracks in the sidewalk. It is a mild green that can be eaten raw in salads.

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