We’re collectively in ramp season and the wild craze for them has begun, but just as ramps are sending up their shoots, so are many other wild plants that might make an appearance at your local market. Here are a few to keep an eye out for.
Patience Dock Sometimes called “monk’s rhubarb,” patience dock is a relative of buckwheat and sorrel frequently used in Romanian cooking. Like any greens, patience dock is loaded with vitamins and minerals, but it is also high in oxalic acid which can be harmful if consumed in too great a quantity. To reduce it, simply blanch patience dock before sautéing.
Stinging Nettles Here’s a tip: don’t reach into a bag of stinging nettles. Why? Because, genius, they will sting you. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, stinging nettles, though hated by many a hiker, have long been used as a medicinal plant because the thing that makes them sting (hollow hairs called trichomes) stimulate a histamine-driven immune response. This same thing makes them hugely nutritious as a tea, or cooked and folded into polenta or pasta dough where they lend a cucumbery, spinach-like flavor. Also, you shouldn’t be scared of the sting, it goes away once the greens are soaked in water or cooked.
Garlic Mustard Considered an invasive plant, these heart-shaped leaves taste (you guessed it) like garlic and mustard. All parts of the plant, including the root, can be eaten and the leaves and blossoms are especially good as recommended by Paul Virant in The Preservation Kitchen in a pesto or a chimichurri.
Japanese Knotweed As hated by gardeners as harlequin beetles, Japanese knotweed is also classified as an invasive species and this one is not messing around. The plants can grow through concrete and easily overwhelm anything else. Help take it down a peg by eating the fleshy stems, which resemble asparagus dotted with pink spots. Their flavor is tart and lemony, like rhubarb, and its great on the grill.
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