Tuesday, May 5, 2015

It's easy being green, Kermit

It's early spring and my impatience is palpable.  I can't wait to go strolling for parts of my meal. During the months of April and May, plants are at their most tender stage and this is my favorite time to eat them!  The greens produced during this period can be bitter, but they are nutrient-rich and no one can beat the freshly culled green treats that await those of us who know about them.  I have been foraging for greens and other plants since the early 80s when I was a mere child; unfortunately it took quite a long time for me to develop the taste required to really enjoy these greens.  I am dedicating this post to winter cress because it has quickly made its way to the top of my list.

The pic below shows three of my favorite early spring greens: Winter cress, peppergrass and plantain (left to right and top to bottom).  

Winter cress is a hardy plant that grows literally everywhere I walk in Milwaukee.  I have seen it in old garden beds, along bike trails and even in yards.  It has very shiny, dark green leaves and at this point in the season has grown stalks with flower buds that resemble very small florets of broccoli. These are very bitter when eaten raw, as are the leaves; when cooked, however, they become very palatable to anyone who likes greens and I highly recommend them.  

To harvest this plant is extremely easy: pick the leaves closest to the top, as they will be less bitter than the large ones at the bottom of the plant.  For the flower buds, just cut them at the base of the stalk, with the leaves still on the stalks.  Put them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until you need them; check on them if you don't plan on using them right away, as they can become flaccid and wilted.  Just soak them in cold water for a while and drain them to fresh them and then store them in a freezer bag in the crisper. The possibilities for cooking and eating these beauties are endless and I suggest experimentation for anyone who likes to cook.   You can use the leaves, flower buds, and stalks in recipes that call for greens - especially those that require mustard greens, as they are bitter, too.

 Click the tofu for a recipe that winter cress will make even better!

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