The Dirt: What To Get At The Farmers Market This Weekend

Just like the ornamental plums and cherry trees blooming all over town, fruit trees are blooming in the orchards, hopefully preparing for a summer full of juicy peaches, plums, and apricots. Meanwhile, down on the ground, the first spears of asparagus are emerging and you might see the tiniest of supplies at your favorite market if you shop early. The reign of ramps continues at local farmer’s markets, but this week they’re joined by several other wild edibles besides.

Stinging Nettles – Yes, if you brush against them they will sting you. That’s why they’re called stinging nettles. Even so, you shouldn’t be afraid of these wild plants. Dark green and fuzzy with prickly fuzz, they also happen to be ridiculously nutritious. Neutralize their sting with a quick steam or saute and then use them anywhere you might otherwise use sautéed spinach. Look for – but don’t touch – nettles on the table at Primordial Mushroom Farm at Clark Park.

Dandelion Greens – Pleasantly bitter and juicy, dandelion greens, spotted last week from Landisdale and Livengood farms, are a nice trade out anywhere you might otherwise use broccoli raab. Plus, they’re at their best now, early in the season, before they get too big and fibrous.

Mizuna – Not a wild edible, but less familiar than the ubiquitous kale and collards, mizuna is a peppery Japanese green with a feathery texture and a peppery flavor somewhere in between mustard greens (technically, it is one) and arugula. Pennypack Farm has it at Clark Park.

Watercress – Super juicy and crunchy, watercress is not always easy to find locally, but Brogue Hydroponics will have it at Fitler Square this weekend, and it’s almost guaranteed to look way better than the beat up watercress you’ll see at the supermarket.

Chickweed – Another little wild plant, you’ll occasionally see this one on plates at restaurants, beloved as a garnish for its delicate little leaves and white, star shaped flowers. Even so, there’s a good chance that this is flourishing in those forgotten flowerpots on your back patio, too. You can sauté it like any other green, but it’s a little bit stringy so it tends to work better in a puree, a pesto, or raw in salads.

Rhubarb – Everyone’s favorite stems of the year (sorry, celery), rhubarb is starting to arrive! Look for it everywhere, or make a trip to the Fitler Square market to pick it up from Highland Orchards.