By Rita Bober
Ah, March 21st has come and gone so spring is here, right! As I glance out the window and see the snow falling, I must think positive — yes, spring is here and this snow has only temporarily covered my crocuses and snow drops. I have started some vegetable and flower seeds in the house and greenhouse. I know spring is around the corner. So-oo-on I will be able to gather wild greens for my salad. So, today I want to share with you three of my favorite spring wild salad greens
It's in the Carnation family; some other names are starweed, tongue grass, adder's mouth, starwort, stitchwort. Found in your mineral-rich greenhouse and garden soil. It is best identified by many very small starry white flowers, with five petals so deeply divided they appear to be ten petals; growing in low, dense, vibrant-green mats; single line of hairs on smooth stalk. Use chickweed, the whole fresh herb before and during flowering, as a nourishing, strengthening food. It is high in many vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, calcium, potassium, and vitamin C. It is a powerful nourisher to the glandular and lymphatic systems. Cut the tops to add to your salad.
It's in the Purslane Family. Purslane is a prostrate spreading annual with thick, fleshy, alternate leaves shaped like little paddles. The stems are reddish and the seeds, which are almost always present on some part of the plant, are small and black little open vase-like pods. The leaves are often grouped into flattened clusters. The plant is a frequent garden or greenhouse "weed". Its season extends from early summer through the fall. Cut the stems with a sharp knife. If more shoots are desired, leave the root in the ground and more stems will grow within a week. The shoots can be eaten raw in salads or mixed with cheese or sour cream dips. Purslane is low in calories and contains some vitamin A and C. It's a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. The stems and leaves have a wonderful sweet-sour flavor.
Common Blue Violet
It's in the Violet family; some other names are pansy, heart's ease, wild pansy, garden violet. The common blue violet grows as a cultivated ornamental in gardens but is also found wild in meadows, damp woods, rich soil and along the edges of trails and paths. A basal rosette of stalked, shallow-toothed, heart-shaped leaves, each up to 5 inches across, first appears in early spring. The flowers have five petals, are bilaterally symmetrical and roughly butterfly-shaped. It is one of the best-tasting, most abundant wild foods of spring. The leaves are mild, sweet, and slightly peppery. The flowers have less flavor than the leaves, take longer to collect, but they beautify any dish. Both the flowers and leaves are considered blood purifiers or detoxifiers. They contain rutin, which strengthens the capillaries as well as vitamin C.
Caution: the rhizome of the common blue violet is poisonous to humans, so don't eat that part of the plant, it will make you throw up. Collect the leaves themselves without stem and a handful of flowers to add to your salad.
Gather these three wild green plants to add to your early lettuce greens, include some salad dressing and enjoy!
Published in the Michigan Land Trustees Newsletter, Spring, 2008